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When a violation of New York Labor Law by an employer results in an injury to an employee, the employer may be held absolutely liable for the damages caused. Absolute liability, also known as strict liability, means that the plaintiff does not have to prove negligence on the part of the defendant. Normally, in a personal injury or wrongful death case, the injured plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In a case of absolute liability, however, it is only necessary to prove the injury and cause; the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant breached a duty owed to the plaintiff. This also means that the defendant cannot raise any defenses that it acted in good faith or took reasonable steps to prevent an accident; the employer is strictly liable regardless of whether it acted with care or not.
This is the case under New York Labor Law. The law itself establishes the duty owed by an employer to an employee, and a violation of the law is per se a breach of that duty. For instance, New York Labor Law section 240 (1) requires contractors and property owners to provide proper scaffolding, safety harnesses or other protections for employees working from heights, and section 241 requires that floors be adequately supported during construction, excavation or demolition. If an employee falls from a height and no protective devices were provided, the employer may be held absolutely liable for violating 240 (1) and be liable for the damages caused without regard to fault.
Absolute liability theories are not limited to workplace injuries or construction accidents. Many products liability cases are brought as strict liability cases, although they may also be brought under theories of breach of warranty or general negligence. Dog bite law is another area of strict liability; dog owners may be held strictly liable under New York Law when their animal bites another person, regardless of whether the dog had previously shown any signs of a dangerous propensity.
If you have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. in New York City for a free consultation regarding your rights to be compensated for the damages caused to you.