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Falling Objects and Falling Workers: Both Fall Under New York Labor Law Section 240(1)

In the case of Naughton v. NYC, the plaintiff construction worker was injured when he fell fifteen feet while unloading bundles of curtain wall panels off a flatbed truck. The plaintiff was instructed to climb on top of the bundles to attach them to a crane for off-loading. Plaintiff’s request for a ladder was denied. When one of the 10-foot bundles attached to the crane began to swing toward the plaintiff, he had no way to get down safely from the truck to avoid being struck, causing his fall to the street below.

The appeals court held that Naughton should have been granted summary judgment in his favor on the issue of the contractor’s liability. New York Labor Law section 240(1) places a nondelegable duty on the general contractor to provide safety devices to protect workers from gravity-related injuries. Here the contractor could be liable in two different ways – for not providing a ladder and for not providing a secure hoist for the bundles. Whether the accident occurred because the worker fell or because the bundles were swinging free, or a combination of both, 240(1) covers both types of situations.

New York labor law provides a simple equation regarding a general contractor’s liability for a construction accident: statute violated + proximate cause = liability. Yet these cases continue to be litigated and appealed and vigorously defended by contractors and their insurance companies who claim that the statute cited does not apply, that the statutory violation was not the cause of the action, or even that the contractor is not a contractor within the meaning of the law. If you have been injured in a New York City construction accident, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for an attorney ready to take on the construction companies and hold them accountable for their negligence or misconduct.

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