Monday, June 20, 2016

First Department Excludes Routine Household Cleaning from Labor Law §240 Claims

In Morales v Avalon Bay Communities Inc., the plaintiff was injured when she fell from a three foot step ladder while cleaning the interior of a kitchen in an apartment complex.  At the time of her fall, construction of the complex was nearing completion and approximately 90% of the units within the building were occupied. The plaintiff nevertheless brought suit against the owners of the building alleging violations of "the Scaffold Law," Labor Law §§240(1) and 241(6). The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the First Department considered whether plaintiff was engaged in “cleaning” within the meaning of Labor Law §240(1). The court considered the factors set out in Soto v J. Crew Inc., (21 NY3d 562, 568 [2013]) (holding that “activity cannot be characterized as ‘cleaning’ under the statute, if the task: (1) is routine, in the sense that it is the type of job that occurs on a daily, weekly or other relatively-frequent and recurring basis as part of the ordinary maintenance and care of commercial premises; (2) requires neither specialized equipment or expertise, nor the unusual deployment of labor; (3) generally involves insignificant elevation risks comparable to those inherent in typical domestic or household cleaning; and (4) in light of the core purpose of Labor Law § 240 (1) to protect construction workers, is unrelated to any ongoing construction, renovation, painting, alteration or repair project”).  After review, the court concluded that plaintiff was not engaged in §240 “cleaning” and the §240(1) claim was properly dismissed.

In dismissing the §241(6) claim the First Department likewise agreed with the trial court that “plaintiff was not engaged in duties connected to the inherently hazardous work of construction, excavation, or demolition.”

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