Monday, June 11, 2012

Corrections Officer Not Entitled To The Extraordinary Protections of Labor Law § 240(1)

In Bolster v. Eastern Bldg. & Restoration, Inc., the plaintiff was a corrections officer who was injured when workers dropped a doorframe on his shin and foot at a prison construction site.  The Third Department affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's Labor Law § 240 & 241(6) claims.   The Court held, however, that the officer could proceed on claims under section 200 and common-law negligence.

As to Labor Law § 240, the Third Department noted that the section does not cover site security workers who do not participate in construction activities. Here, the Court found that the corrections officer did not participate in the construction work and was present to escort workers to and from the prison work site. Despite being present during the construction work, his job was simply to ensure that no contraband was smuggled into the prison and that the workers were safe from inmates. As a result, the Court concluded that the section 240 claims were properly dismissed because the officer was not a covered worker (a similar result recently reached by the First Department in Kutza v. Bovis Lend Lease LMB).

On the other hand, the corrections officer was a covered person under section 241(6) because he lawfully frequented the work site, but the officer failed to allege a violation of a relevant rule or regulation as a predicate to section 241(6) liability. The Third Department held that the plaintiff’s injuries were unrelated to the proffered regulations involving inspections or dropping steel from buildings. The Court concluded that this accident occurred simply because workers lowering a doorframe purposefully dropped it to their feet when it was at a waist-high level.

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