Commercial Division Blog

Posted: October 26, 2022 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Samuel L. Butt, Seth D. Allen, Joshua Wurtzel, Hillary S. Zilz / Category Commercial Division Justices

Labor Law § 240(1) Imposes Absolute Liability on Contractors Who Fail to Provide Proper Protections to Workers on Construction Sites

On August 15, 2022, Justice Chan of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Jaramillo v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 2022 NY Slip Op 32745(U) holding that summary judgment was appropriate under Labor Law § 240(1) where a construction worker fell from a ladder and did not have adequate protection to protect him from injuries, stating:

Labor Law § 240(1) provides that: "[a]ll contractors and owners and their agents... in the... altering of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding ... ladders, slings ... ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and [**4] operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed." The provision [*7] imposes absolute liability on owners and contractors whose failure to provide "proper protection to workers employed on a construction site, proximately causes injury to a worker" Wilinski v 334 E. 92nd Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 18 NY3d 1, 7, 959 N.E.2d 488, 935 N.Y.S.2d 551 [2011] [internal citation and quotations omitted]). Whether a plaintiff is entitled to recover under Labor Law § 240(1) also "requires a  determination of whether the injury sustained is the type of elevation-related hazard to which the statute applies" (id. [internal citation omitted]). In ascertaining whether there is liability under the statute, the issue to be determined is whether plaintiff's injuries were a direct consequence of a failure to provide adequate protection against injury resulting from a fall from a significant height differential (Runner v New York Exchange, Inc., 13 NY3d 599, 603, 922 N.E.2d 865, 895 N.Y.S.2d 279 [2009]). Thus, it is well settled that where an elevated work surface fails to remain stable or erect and results in injury of a worker, there is prima facie liability under § 240(1) (Aburto v City of New York, 94 AD3d 640, 942 N.Y.S.2d 514 [1st Dept 2012]).

Here, plaintiff has made prima facie showing that he is entitled to summary judgment on his § 240(1) based on his testimony that he fell from a ladder which did not provide adequate protection and was a proximate cause of his injuries (see Ocana v Quasar Realty Partners, L.P., 137 AD3d 566, 567, 27 N.Y.S.3d 530 [1st Dept] lv dismissed 27 N.Y.3d 1078, 35 N.Y.S.3d 299, 54 N.E.3d 1171 [2016] [plaintiff met his burden on summary judgment based on plaintiff's testimony [*8] that "the ladder on which he stood to perform work wobbled, and that both he and the ladder fell to the ground"]; see also Runner, 13 NY3d at 603 [noting that the decisive question regarding liability under § 240(1) is whether plaintiff's injuries were a direct consequence of a failure to provide adequate protection against a risk arising from a physically significant height differential]).

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