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

Sean Fallon, a volunteer firefighter in upstate New York, was climbing up an extension ladder when it collapsed, causing him to fall. His accident occurred in a warehouse owned by the defendant, and he and others were installing plastic sheeting and heaters to prevent fire department vehicles from freezing.

Because of the relationship between the fire department and the warehouse owner, he was not allowed to prosecute a lawsuit for his construction accident.

First, although not discussed, it is implicit in the decision that this type of activity met the definition of construction work to bring it under the cover of the Labor Law.

However, the Appellate Division, Third Department, held that because the defendant did not contract for the work, and because there was no employment relationship between defendant and the fire department, such that the fire department could be considered its agent or contractor, the case was dismissed against the owner.

The court went further to say that where a property owner did not contract for the work, there must be a nexus between the owner and the worker, whether by lease agreement or other property interest, in order for there to be liability.

In the twists and turns that comprise the Labor Law, this is another instance where the result does not quite make sense. Think of it this way: if Mr. Fallon had been an employee of the fire department, he would be able to recover, but because he was kind enough to volunteer for it, he cannot.

Unclear from the decision is the relationship between the fire department and the warehouse. One would presume that the former paid the latter to store its vehicles, but the decision suggests this was not the case. Howver, if money had been exchanged, and Fallon had been a fire department employee, his lawsuit would not have been dismissed.

The case is Batti v. Town of Austerlitz, 896 N.Y.S.2d 513 (3d Dept. 2010).

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