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

Readers of this blog, and those who are knowledgeable about the New York Labor Law — which applies to construction accidents in New York — know that it provides exceptional protections to workers who are injured in either a falling accident or when they are struck by a falling object.

Interestingly, this second category has been expanded by the Court of Appeals in the Runner case. The requirement of a height differential, which has always been required to establish liability, has been altered by this decision. One commentator, David Scher, has observed:

[T]he Runner Court was not totally unconcerned with also finding a significant elevation differential.  The Court did observe that the height differential was significant given the weight of the reel and the “force it was capable of generating.”  However, the height differential described by the Court was not that between the worker and object, but rather between the object and the bottom of the staircase below the plaintiff.  Significantly, the Court focused on “force” and lacked concern for the number of feet or inches that the reel fell.

Several years before Runner was decided, the Second Department issued a decision which supports this theory. In Salinas v. Barney Skanska Construction Co., 2 A.D.3d 619, 769 N.Y.S.2d 559 (2d Dept. 2003), the plaintiff was an employee of a subcontractor hired to perform demolition work at a building.  The plaintiff was removing a large heavy air conditioning duct attached to the ceiling by burning through the metal rods supporting it.  He stood underneath the duct which was anywhere from 20 inches to 5 feet above the top of his head.  No safety devices were used to lower the duct, though two wooden planks could have been used to help support the duct and provide warning that it was about to fall.   

According to the Second Department, the plaintiff demonstrated that the duct fell because of the absence or inadequacy of a safety device, and, therefore, the question turned to whether the accident involved an elevation-related risk.  The Court held that it did because the “plaintiff had to stand directly underneath a duct that he was removing, which weighed several hundred pounds and could not be supported by him, even if it was 20 inches, not several feet, above his head.” 

Thus, it is not the number of feet or inches that the object fell that determines if the Labor Law has been violated for there to be an actionable New York construction accident, but instead if the object is large enough to generate significant force in the distance that it fell.

Leave a Reply