Thursday, March 14, 2013

Third Department Applies Labor Law "Residential Use" Exemption to Home For Disabled Individuals

In Sanchez v. Marticorena, the plaintiff's decedent was tragically killed in a fall from the defendants' roof.  The defendants owned a residential home that was certified by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities as a "family care home."  Four disabled individuals resided at the home, along with the defendants, for which defendants received a stipend.  Plaintiff argued, therefore, that the "home" also served a "commercial purpose" and as such the roof repair work was subject to the Labor Law. 

The work, however, was for the benefit of an attic bedroom where one of the defendants slept and the repairs were paid for from the defendants' personal funds.  

The Third Department held that the receipt of a stipend did not transform the residence into a purely commercial enterprise to render the "residential use" exemption under the Labor Law inapplicable (Bartoo v. Buell, 87 N.Y.2d 362 [1996]).  The Court also held that plaintiff had failed to rebut the fact that the subject repair benefited the defendants' residence, and not an area of the home that allegedly served a commercial purpose.  Finally, the Court observed that the homeowner's exemption "'was enacted to protect those people who, lacking business sophistication, would not know or anticipate the need to obtain insurance to cover them against the absolute liability imposed by' the Labor Law (Lombardi v. Stout, 80 N.Y.2d 290, 296 [1992)."  Here, becoming licensed family care providers did not transform the defendants into sophisticated business persons.  

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