Monday, January 14, 2013

Fourth Department Holds No "Falling Object" Liability For Worker Struck By Material Being Hoisted, But Questions As To "Falling Worker" Liability For Worker's Subsequent Fall From Ladder

In Bruce v. Actus Lend Lease, the plaintiff was injured while he was securing a roof truss to a building.  A hoisting device prematurely lifted the truss, causing the truss to break apart.  Part of the truss still being hoisted then struck the plaintiff, knocking him off a ladder.  The Fourth department held that there was no “falling object” liability under Labor Law § 240(1) because the truss was rising when it struck the plaintiff and thus the injury was not the result of “the application of the force of gravity” to the truss.  Nevertheless, the Court found questions of fact concerning “falling worker” liability because there were questions about the adequacy of the safety device, absence of other safety devices and even whether the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his own injuries.

Note: This case illustrates an important point regarding "proximate cause."  An argument can be made that the defendant is not liable for any alleged injury attributable to being struck by the truss.  Instead, the defendant should only be held liable, if at all, for any alleged injury attributable to the fall from the ladder.  

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