Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along -- More Dissents In AD1

In Ramirez v. Shoats, the plaintiff was injured leaving his construction site for a coffee break when corrugated decking on the stairs he was using, which had just been installed, gave way causing him to fall. A majority of the First Department found that a question of fact existed as to whether the permanent staircase was plaintiff's sole means of egress from the worksite. According to the majority, if the stairs were the sole means of egress, then they must be considered a safety device within the meaning of Labor Law 240(1).

In a two-judge dissent, Justice McGuire observed that the Court's prior holding in Ryan v. Morse Diesel, Inc. (98 AD2d 615 [1st Dept. 1983]), that a permanent staircase is not a safety device within the meaning of Labor Law 240(1), is consistent with decisions from the other three Appellate Departments. Justice McGuire further indicated that plaintiff was not using the staircase in place of a scaffold or other safety device, but was instead using the stairs as a passageway, which does not fall within the ambit of 240(1).

In yet another opinion with a dissent, Sweeney v. Riverbay Corporation, the plaintiff tripped and fell over a garden hose that had been stretched across a sidewalk for at least one-half hour. In reversing summary judgment to the defendant, the majority found that the hose constituted a tripping hazard and that a question of fact existed as to whether 30 minutes was sufficient to permit the defendant to discover the hose and remedy the condition.

In dissent, Justice Catterson stated his opinion that 30 minutes was not sufficient time for the defendant to have had constructive notice of an alleged condition on its 300-acre property.

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