Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Department Splits Over Labor Law Liability Where Plaintiff Did Not Fall From a Height

In Reavely v. Yonkers Raceway Programs, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that violations of the Labor Law caused him to cut his fingers with a circular saw. The plaintiff had been instructed to cut plywood for a hang wall near a trench; his footing slipped on waterproofing that had not yet safely hardened. Although the plaintiff did not fall from the wall, he claimed that his injury was caused when he acted to prevent himself from falling.

Over a two-judge dissent, the First Department affirmed summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff under Labor Law § 240(1). The majority concluded that plaintiff was entitled to a safety device under the Labor Law and that the failure to provide one was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. By contrast, the dissent argued that the injury would have occurred regardless of whether the accident happened near a trench and that the better view of the accident was that plaintiff had simply lost his balance on a slippery level surface. The dissent’s logic resulted in the further statement that plaintiff's claim under Labor Law § 241(6) should also be dismissed.

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