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Ladder Fall is a Covered Injury During Repair, But Not Routine Maintenance

The New York Supreme Court, New York County, issued a decision on October 18, 2011 that points up the complicated factual issues that must be addressed and argued in an on-the-job injury. In the case, Musso v. Max Capital Management Corp., the plaintiff fell off a ladder while replacing a ceiling tile in an office building, where he worked for the tenant in its facilities department for 33 years. While replacing the tile, the ladder shifted, and the plaintiff fell three to four feet onto a Formica table, injuring his neck and back.

The worker sued the building owner under various legal theories, including violation of Labor Law 240 (1). This law requires that proper protection be in place during erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure. The point of section 240 (1) is to protect workers from injuries sustained from falls or falling objects. (see New York Labor Law and the Law of Gravity).

The statute, however, does not cover accidents occurring during routine maintenance, but only during one of the seven tasks listed in the law. For purposes of this case, the task of repairing is the one at issue. Was this job routine maintenance or repair? The plaintiff admitted replacing ceiling tiles hundreds of times as a routine matter in the course of his employment. But this replacement was required not to replace a tile damaged due to wear and tear, but to replace a tile damaged by a water leak. Also, the entire project required replacing several tiles and brackets.

Both parties had moved for summary judgment, meaning they are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law without need for a trial. The court, however, found that the factual question of whether the ceiling tile replacement was routine maintenance or repair should be decided by a jury at trial.

The plaintiff also brought suit under Labor Law 241 (6), which requires shoring, guarding, and other measures to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to workers. However, this law only applies to accidents occurring during construction, demolition or excavation work. (see New York Laws, Codes, Rules and Regulations all Govern Construction Site Accidents). Since this was not the case here, the section 241 claim was dismissed.

Whether as a result of a construction site accident or other workplace injury, ladder falls and other accidents present complex and complicated factual and legal issues that must be fully understood and addressed in order for the injured worker to be adequately compensated. If you have been injured in a ladder fall or other workplace injury at a construction site or on the job anywhere, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation with an experienced new York labor law attorney.