Cleaner’s Labor Law Claim Goes Down The Drain (NY)
It seems that every time a worker falls from a ladder in New York, the result is a lawsuit under the Labor Law. In Leathers v. Zaepfel Development Company, Inc., plaintiff David Leathers was exiting a corrosion chamber, used to simulate the effects of weather on metal, when he fell to the ground due to an unstable ladder. He had just finished unclogging the drain in the corrosion chamber, which involved taking apart PVC piping, using an air hose and fish tape, and spraying water. Not surprisingly, he brought suit under NY Labor Law 240(1).
But the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding plaintiff was not engaged in “repair work” which is an enumerated protected activity under Labor Law 240 (1). Instead, the Court found the drain cleaning work was routine maintenance in a non-construction, non-renovation context “more akin to clearing gutters of debris.” The court focused on the fact that the clog consisted of materials frequently used in the corrosion chamber, and the tools used to unclog the drain were tools usually used by plaintiff in the course of his employment and not specialized.
Thanks to Betsy Silverstine for her contribution to this post. For more information, please write to Mike Bono.