Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Department Finds That Falling Material That Is About To Be Secured Is A Labor Law Violation

In this labor law action, plaintiff Matthews was injured when a metal grate fell on him during his work in an elevator shaft within a building owned by the defendant. The defendant hired Paravini McGovern LLC as the construction manager on the site and subcontracted to plaintiff’s employer to install the elevators and to GC Ironworks (GCI) to install the iron-grate platforms in the elevator shaft. 

The Supreme Court denied the plaintiff partial summary judgment on his Labor Law section 240(1) claim and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the Labor Law section 200 and common-law negligence claims against Pavarini. The Appellate Division, First Department unanimously reversed, granting partial summary judgment to the plaintiff on the Labor Law section 240(1) claim. Despite the fact that GCI was setting up the grates in preparation to weld them, and the grate that injured the plaintiff fell because it had not yet been welded in place, the First Department held that “the grate was part of the work of the construction project in which plaintiff was engaged and was required to be secured “for the purposes of the undertaking.” In fact, the plaintiffs did not need to even show that the falling object, in this case the grate, was in the process of being hoisted or secured in order to prevail under 240(1). Furthermore, the First Department determined the Labor Law section 200 and common law negligence claims were improperly disposed on summary judgment when evidence suggested that Pavarini exercised control over both GCI as well as plaintiff’s employer’s work because they were working in the same elevator shaft in which the alleged unsafe condition arose.

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