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Failure to Provide Safety Devices Violates New York Labor Law

In a recent New York City construction accident case, the Supreme Court, New York County, held that the failure to provide safety devices is a per se violation of New York Labor Law section 240 (1). Section 240 covers scaffolding and other devices for use of employees, and 240 (1) specifically requires contractors and owners in construction projects to “furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of  such  labor, scaffolding,  hoists,  stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be  so  constructed, placed  and  operated  as  to  give  proper  protection  to  a person so employed.”

In the recently-decided case of McAllister v. Phoenix Constructors, JV, a construction worker was injured while building a scaffold inside the Westside IRT subway tunnel around the Cortlandt Street subway station as part of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub Project. The crew of about half a dozen ironworkers were in the process of manually hoisting a 250-300 pound metal beam from the floor to about chest height to place the beam on a catwalk platform, when the plaintiff slipped on some grease or creosote. The beam fell on plaintiff’s wrist and fractured it. The injured worker sued the contractor, Phoenix Constructors, as well as the Port Authority and the MTA.

The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff on a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, meaning that the plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law without having to have a trial on the issue. Basically, 240 (1) requires hoists, and hoisting by hand is a violation of the statute. Where an injury occurs because of a violation of the statute, the defendant is liable as a matter of law.

But The Case Isn’t Over

Despite the seemingly straightforward finding of liability, there were still many issues to resolve in this complex case, including which defendants were actually liable as “owners” (the MTA was not liable, but the Port Authority was), the role of the slipping hazard in causing the accident, whether a fall from chest height is covered under the statute, and whether the defendants had notice of a dangerous condition that they had a duty to remedy. Some of the plaintiff’s claims have been dismissed, while others will have to be decided at trial. Obtaining a recovery for a construction accident injury can be a difficult task, and having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who knows how to litigate the issues is critical to achieving a favorable result. In New York City, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for recovery in construction accidents and other personal injury cases.