Construction Worker Injured by Collapse of Plywood Floor Loses on Summary Judgment; Labor Law not applied to Conversion to One-Family Home

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

Case: Lopez v. Dagan

Date: Aug. 21, 2012

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg

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Facts: On January 9, 2006 Lopez was working for a construction company to convert a five-story Manhattan building to one-family townhouse. This construction workplace accident occurred when, While moving dirt-filled containers, the plywood floor underneath him collapsed. Dropping eight feet into the basement, a container fell on top of him, injuring his back, neck, and left knee.

The homeowners' engineer testified at deposition that underlying metal supports had not been properly fastened into the walls, and plywood had been placed on the joists instead of concrete. Some plywood was fastened down and some wasn't.

The engineer and the Lopez's expert engineer agreed that using plywood as temporary flooring was not in accordance with the engineer's original designs. The joists had collapsed under the load placed on top of the plywood.

Holdings: Because the homeowners were converting their property into a single family dwelling, and direct or control the construction work, they were not liable under the Labor Law. Also, they had not notice of a defect in the temporary plywood floor.

The engineer was not the owners' agent, and was not responsible, since he didn't control the work and his plans and drawings for the construction were safe if followed.

The accident was the fault of the construction company, plaintiff's employer. His case is dismissed on summary judgment. His only recourse is through the benefits available under the Worker's Compensation law.

Dissent's Holding: The dissent disagrees because the floor was in its plywood-covered condition for a long enough time before the accident for the homeowners' to, possibly, have had notice of it. There are issues of fact as to the homeowners' knowledge, that should keep them in this case.

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