A New York Construction Accident Lawyer Who Represents Injured Workers Tracking Developments in Construction Accident Law.

In Harris v. 170 E. End Ave., LLC, the First Department expanded liability under New York Labor Law section 240(1), the Scaffold Law, so that a construction worker can obtain relief after being struck by a falling object which had been properly secured.

Briefly, an object was being hoisted with a cable that made contact with a bundle of wooden beams which then fell on a worker. 

Two passages from the decision are worth noting:

Here, the bundle of stringers fell as a result of a foreseeable construction-related accident, not an act of God or other calamity which defendants could not have anticipated. Thus, section 240(1) was violated, notwithstanding that the bundle may have been chocked in accordance with industry protocol.

Here, it was foreseeable that the crane cable could strike the bundle of stringers, and cause it to fall. Indeed, defendants’ own expert conceded that with “sufficient” force, the chocking system would fail. Accordingly, some additional safety device was needed to secure the bundle, especially while a crane obviously having the potential to provide such a force was in close proximity to the bundle. 

It can be reasonably said that this decision shows how the pendulum in Labor Law cases is swinging back in favor of workers. For instance, check out the language contained in the Court of Appeals decision Quattrocchi v. FJ. Sciame Constr. Corp., 11 NY3d 757, 758, (2008):

In this case, plaintiff alleges that he was struck by falling planks that had been placed over open doors as a makeshift shelf to facilitate the installation of an air conditioner above a doorway. We agree with the Appellate Division majority that triable questions of fact preclude summary judgment on plaintiff’s Labor Law § 240 (1) claim, including whether the planks were adequately secured in light of the purposes of the plank assembly and whether plaintiff caused the accident by jostling the doors after disregarding a warning not to enter the doorway area.

There is a progression here. The Court of Appeals stated in 2008 that whether or not the object was properly secured raised an issue of fact precluding summary judgment.

In this most recent decision, the First Department goes further to say that even if the object that fell was properly secured, according to industry custom, summary judgment may actually be awarded to the plaintiff if it was foreseeable the accident would occur.

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