A boiler mechanic was injured while he was performing repair work on a boiler. On the day of the accident, he was sent to perform major repair work on a broken boiler located in a building’s basement. While accessing the boiler, he fell ten feet from a sidewalk hatchway, landing on his back.
The injured mechanic sued the owner of the property, the first-floor lessee, and its maintenance company under Labor Law § 240(1) for his injuries. Labor Law § 240(1) protects workers engaged in a number of construction activities. One of the most often litigated “covered construction activities” is repair work.
The boiler mechanic argued that because he was not advised of a safe means of access to the boiler, he had to use the unsafe sidewalk hatchway. He testified that he had never visited the subject building until an attempted repair was made several weeks earlier. To perform this prior repair, his employer had given him keys with instructions to open up a roll-up gate covering the entrance to the first floor, to use another key to enter the first-floor lessee’s office, and then walk to the stairway leading to the basement where the boiler was located. He also indicated that the keys to the first-floor lessee’s roll-up gate did not work, and that he subsequently located a sidewalk hatchway located in the front of the building that would provide access to the boiler in the basement.
When he returned to the premises several weeks later, he again entered the hatchway and ventured to the basement location of the boiler. He claimed that as he was climbing out through the hatchway and attempted to hoist himself up by grabbing the hatchway opening as he was standing on the ladder, he suddenly lost his grip, causing him to fall ten feet to the basement floor below, onto his back.
The injured worker argued that he was never advised of a safer means of reaching the basement boiler, which consisted of going through a garage 200 feet away from the main entrance. The building owner argued that he told the worker’s employer of this safer method of reaching the basement boiler a number of years earlier (when the first-floor lessee first leased the space and had the locks changed) but admitted that he could not recall telling the injured worker's employer after that. The boiler mechanic noted that he had been to this premises only once before the incident and that he was never told of this safer method of gaining access to the basement.
The defendants moved to dismiss his case. The property owner argued that Labor Law § 240(1) was inapplicable because the plaintiff, whose employer continually maintained the boilers, was engaged in “routine maintenance” work at the time of the accident which Labor Law § 240(1) does not govern. The plaintiff argued that while his employer had provided continual maintenance to the boiler, including annual inspections, the work being done on the day of the accident was to repair an inoperable boiler, and the extensive repairs needed to be performed far exceeded what could reasonably be called “routine maintenance.”
As a result of this accident, the injured worker claimed he suffered herniations at L-4-5, L5- S1 and C4-5 which would require both a cervical and lumbar fusion surgery. He argued that he continued to experience intense pain and a limited range of motion. As a result of this, he argued he would need extensive future care that would cost approximately $900,000. In addition, the plaintiff was earning approximately $70,000 a year before his accident. He claimed his injuries and the limitations they caused have left him permanently unemployable.
The case settled for $3,075,000 before the judge had to decide defendants’ motions to dismiss this case. The property owner paid $3,000,000 and the first-floor lessee paid $60,000, with its agent paying $15,000.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact The Platta Law Firm for a free legal consultation by calling 212–514–5100 (24/7), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting our law firm in Financial District of Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions using the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.