An apprentice ironworker was employed by a concrete subcontractor performing work at a building under construction in Lower Manhattan. The owner of the construction site hired the general contractor who in turn hired the ironworker’s employer. The iron worker was injured while performing work at the jobsite when he was struck by a wooden beam that fell from the floor above.
At the time of the accident, the ironworker was working on the eighth floor of the building. A group of carpenters were working on the ninth floor of the building, “setting up the floor.” To do so, they were placing wooden beams across metal floor trusses. The ninth floor was open to the floor below it, and there were no nets or other protective devices between the eighth and ninth floors.
The ironworker sued the owner and the general contractor under Labor Law § 240(1). The injured worker also sued the owner of the premised under Labor Law § 240. It protects construction workers from gravity-related risks such as falling from a height or being struck by a falling object. Liability under this section is governed by statute and construction site owners and general contractors can be held strictly liable for violations of Labor Law § 240(1). The worker's comparative fault cannot be considered, which makes this statute very friendly to construction workers.
At his deposition, the ironworker testified that the carpenters were setting the wooden ribs from truss to truss by “kind of tossing them” across the trusses. Depositions of the defendants were never held and the ironworker moved for summary judgment against the owner and general contractor (the defendants) under Labor Law § 240(1). In his motion for summary judgment, the ironworker claimed that the defendants were liable under Labor Law § 240(1) because they placed no safety devices or intermediate barriers between the eighth and ninth floors that could have prevented the wooden beams from falling in between the trusses.
The defendants opposed the ironworker’s motion for summary judgment under Labor Law § 240(1). They argued that the accident did not involve an elevation-related hazard of the type the statute was intended to protect. Specifically, they argued that the incident did not fall within the purview of Labor Law § 240(1) because the ironworker did not fall from a height and the falling object that struck him was not being improperly hoisted and was not a load that required securing for the purposes of the undertaking.
The Court considered the motions and issued an order. In it, the Court noted that the state’s highest Court had previously clarified that Labor Law § 240(1) is not limited to cases in which falling objects are in the process of being hoisted or secured. Accordingly, the Court found that the ironworker had established an entitlement to summary judgment.
The Court noted that nobody disputed the ironworker’s description of how the accident occurred. His description of how the accident occurred falls squarely into the type of accident that the Labor Law was intended to protect workers against. While Labor Law liability may be imposed where there is an inadequate safety device, the facts of this case were outstandingly bad, as here, no device was used to prevent the injury to the ironworker. Since the beam fell from the ninth to the eighth floor of the building that was under construction and struck the ironworker, causing him injury, it is clear that proper protection should have been in place to prevent the accident.
Accordingly, the Court granted the ironworker’s motion for summary judgment and remanded his case for a trial on the issue of damages only.
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