CONSTRUCTION WORKER WHO FELL THROUGH HOLE AFTER PUSHED BY CO-EMPLOYEE MAY BE ENTITLED TO LABOR LAW PROTECTION DUE TO POSSIBLE FALLING HAZARD

Court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

Case: Scott Coaxum v. Metcon Construction, Inc.

Date: March 1, 2012

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Queens; Queens accident attorney)

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RELATED POSTS:

ACCIDENT VICTIM FELL IN HOLE IN BASEMENT WHILE FILLING IT WITH CONCRETE HAS NO LABOR LAW CLAIM; DEFENSE GRANTED SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Posted by Queens accident attorney Gary E. Rosenberg on Jan 13, 2012)

ACCIDENT VICTIM FELL IN TRENCH IN SHOP; DEFENSE SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION DENIED, ISSUE OF FACT WHETHER IT DIRECTED THE DIGGING (Posted by Queens accident attorney Gary E. Rosenberg on Apr 12, 2012)

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Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Patricia Anne Williams, J.), entered on or about November 9, 2010, which denied defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, unanimously modified, on the law, to dismiss plaintiff's common law negligence and Labor Law Sec. 200 claims, and Labor Law Sec. 241(6) claim, to the extent it is based on a violation of 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(e)(1), and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

On or about August 12, 2002, plaintiff was working on premises owned by defendant 200 West 26, LLC and leased by defendant Buy Buy Baby, Inc. Plaintiff was responsible for taping sheetrock prior to its being painted. While working, he became involved in a dispute with another worker, who, in the course of the dispute, pushed plaintiff. After being pushed, plaintiff stepped back into an open hole and fell, breaking his leg.

Defendants failed to establish they should be relieved from liability on the ground that the coworker's act in pushing plaintiff was an independent intervening act that was a superseding cause of the accident (see Williams v. 520 Madison Partnership, 38 A.D.3d 464, 834 N.Y.S.2d 32 [2007]).

Turning to the merits of the Labor Law claims, the motion court correctly determined that questions of fact exist concerning the hole plaintiff allegedly fell into. Defendants have not conceded the existence of the hole, and there is, at best, conflicting evidence concerning its size and whether its depth was sufficient to render it a gravity‑related hazard within the meaning of Labor Law Sec. 240(1) (see e.g. Carpio v. Tishman Constr. Corp. of N.Y., 240 A.D.2d 234, 658 N.Y.S.2d 919 [1997]) or a falling hazard as defined by 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(b)(1), thereby stating a claim for violation of Labor Law Sec. 241(6) (see e.g. Barillaro v. Beechwood RB Shorehaven, LLC 69 A.D.3d 543, 894 N.Y.S.2d 434 [2010]).

The motion court erred, however, in failing to dismiss the common law negligence and Labor Law Sec. 200 claims as the testimony is clear that these defendants did not supervise or control the plaintiff's work (Campuzano v. Board of Educ. of City of N.Y., 54 A.D.3d 268, 863 N.Y.S.2d 184 [2008]). In addition, the motion court should have dismissed the Labor Law Sec. 241(6) claim to the extent it was predicated on a violation of 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(e)(1) of the Industrial Code. The section refers only to passageways.

The evidence is clear that the area where the accident occurred was a work area, not a passageway (see e.g. Canning v. Barneys N.Y., 289 A.D.2d 32, 34, 734 N.Y.S.2d 116 [2001]).

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