Plaintiff Granted Partial Summary Judgment in Labor Law 240 Case

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiff in a ladder / elevation case under Labor Law 240.

The plaintiff was an electrician for Atlas-Acon Electric Service who was working on NBC property in New York City. The plaintiff ascended an A-frame ladder in order to replace the ballasts on 25 light fixtures. After completing his job, he began to descend the ladder. At this time, the ladder swayed, and the plaintiff fell, sustaining injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit for Labor Law 240 violations.

Labor Law 240 (1) is also known as the Scaffold Law. Labor Law 240 covers protections for employees working at elevated heights. It requires employers to provide or erect scaffolding, blocks, irons, ropes, pulleys, and harnesses for employees working at elevated heights. The law was codified in order to protect employees from the increased risk of danger and injury at elevated heights. The law is specifically directed at employees working on construction or renovation sites. When an employer fails to provide or maintain any equipment as required by Labor Law 240, the employer has violated the law. A violation of Labor Law 240 is evidence of negligence if the employee falls or is otherwise injured due to lack of safety equipment.

Routine maintenance work is not covered by Labor Law 240. Thus, while a contractor installing windows on a high rise building is covered by Labor Law 240, a superintendent replacing a smoke detector battery while standing on a ladder is not.

Here, however, the NBC building was undergoing renovations, which the plaintiff’s work was a part of. Therefore, because his replacement of the ballasts constituted a part of the renovation project and not routine maintenance on the facility, his accident was covered by Labor Law 240.

The parties did not dispute how the accident occurred. In addition, no evidence arose in the record that the plaintiff was a proximate cause of the fall. Therefore, the First Department granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiff electrician on the issue of liability.

This means that liability has been established for purposes of the trial. However, the plaintiff will still need to prove damages. Damages can include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering.

Summary judgment is usually granted in whole, meaning that the entirety of the motion for summary judgment is granted. If it is the defendant’s motion that is granted, the case is dismissed. If it is the plaintiff’s motion that is granted, judgment is entered in favor of the plaintiff.

Here, however, the total amount of damages may be disputed. This will lead to one of two outcomes. After learning that it has been found liable by the appellate court for the accident, NBC may offer a settlement package to the plaintiff. When evaluating the value of a settlement offer, the plaintiff must consider the cost both in terms of time and money if he were to pursue trial in lieu of a settlement.

In a case in which liability is already pre-established, the jury may be more willing to award the plaintiff what he is asking for. If the plaintiff has hospital bills and employment history available, he should be able to prove his damages to the jury. An award can also be made for the plaintiff’s past and future pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident while on the job, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Gallivan & Gallivan to discuss your potential Labor law 240 claim today.

Blanco v. NBC Trust No. 1996A, 122 AD3d 409 (1st Dept., Nov. 6, 2014).

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