Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dismissal of a Labor Law § 240(1) claim.

Practice point:  During construction, concrete stones were delivered on wooden pallets, and, to keep the stones dry, they were covered with a plastic tarp. On the day of the accident, plaintiff was constructing a scaffold near an open area where the pallets were located. As plaintiff walked by one of the pallets, a stone block that was resting on top of it allegedly fell and struck him on the right knee. Plaintiff commenced this action, asserting, among other claims, a Labor Law § 240(1) claim, alleging that the tarp was not properly secured and that, if it had been, plaintiff would not have been injured.

The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the claim, finding that the plastic tarp was not an object that needed to be secured within the meaning of § 240(1). The purpose of the tarp was to keep the stones dry in case of rain, not to protect the workers from an elevation-related risk.

Student note: Section 240(1) does not necessarily apply every time a worker is injured by a falling object.  The question is whether plaintiff's injuries were the direct consequence of a failure to provide adequate protection against a risk arising from a physically significant elevation differential. The plaintiff must establish that the object fell because of the inadequacy or absence of a safety device of the kind contemplated by the statute. In order for something to be deemed a safety device under the statute, it must have been put in place as to give proper protection for the worker.

Case: Guallpa v. Leon D. DeMatteis Constr. Corp, NY Slip Op 03768 (1st Dept. 2014)

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow's issue: The homeowner's exemption to liability under the Labor Law.