Labor Law Claims of Worker Injured in Fall off Barge Preempted by Federal Maritime Law and Dismissed

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

Case: Kenny Koat v. Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc.

Date: Aug. 1, 2012

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

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Facts: This interesting case involves the interplay between maritime (sea) law and New York's Labor Law, which protects workers from elevation-related hazards.

This accident victim was working on a barge connected to a floating power station, somewhere on Brooklyn's Gowanus Bay. While welding a turbine engine, he fell into the water and was injured. He sued a bunch of power-generating companies. Plaintiff claimed the protection of New York's Labor Law, which protects workers from elevation-related risks.

Defendants asked the Court to dismiss the case against them on summary judgment, claiming that the accident victim=s claims were superseded (preempted) by the Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Under that law, they could not be held liable for Labor Law violations. They argued that they also couldn't be held liable for non-Labor Law (common law) negligence in causing plaintiff's accident, because they did not supervise or control his work -- only his employer did. (This would leave this accident victim's sole remedy to be a claim under New York's Worker's Compensation law.)

The Court notes an interesting argument made by the defense: that a New York Federal court faced a similar issue and found that an electricity-generating barge such as the one in this case is a "vessel" within the meaning of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

Held: The accident victim's N.Y.S. Labor Law claims are out because they're preempted by Federal Law (the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act).

Also, the defendants showed that they didn't supervise or control the injured plaintiff's work.

Defense motion for summary judgment is granted; this case is dismissed.

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