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

Even though New York law imposes numerous strict safety requirements on contractors at construction sites, not all contractors are liable for construction accidents that occur at a site due to unsafe conditions. There must be privity between the contractor and the injured worker’s employer or firm in order for liability to attach. In other words, the contractor has to be vested with the authority to oversee or control the work performed by the employer.

“As a general rule, a separate prime contractor is not liable under Labor Law 240 or 241 for injuries caused to the employees of other contractors with whom they are not in privity of contract, so long as the contractor has not been delegated the authority to oversee and control the activities of the injured worker.”

So begins Barrios v. City of New York, 905 N.Y.S.2d 255 (2d Dept. 2010), a case that further defines this general rule. The contractor, Skanska, argued that it was not liable for plaintiff’s construction accident on the grounds that it was not in privity with his employer. The Appellate Division, however, ruled that this case fits within an exception to the general rule stated above given that it had vast authority for safety at the worksite.

Skanska, as prime contractor, was required to inspect the site and report safety issues to the resident engineer and owner, meet with contractors and discuss their safety plans, and it employed safety officers who had the authority to bring safety concerns to the attention of the individual contractors’ foremen. According to the Second Department, this constellation of facts made it a “statutory agent” of the owner or general contractor. Hence, it was liable under the New York Labor Law.

Of note, the court seemed to state in somewhat of a conclusory fashion that Skanska had the authority to control the actual work performed by the contractors, but then pointed out that the authority was “particularly with respect to safety issues.” Thus, it is unclear to what degree, if any, the authority to control the actual work factored into its analysis, but, in any case, as written, the decision stands for the proposition that a contractor that is delegated a broad responsibility for safety at a construction site, and in particular, has the power to take measures to enforce safety, may be liable for violations of sections 240(1) and 241(6).

One Response to “Separate Prime Contractor Liable in New York City Construction Accident Under Scaffold Law”

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