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Cleaning Service Cannot Sue for Failure to Clean (NY)

April 4, 2018

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In <em><a href="">Rojas v 1000 42nd St., LLC</a></em>, the Appellate Division, Second Department unanimously reversed a lower court ruling that denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment.  In <em>Rojas</em>, plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell on a piece of cardboard in the basement of a residential building in Brooklyn.  She testified that at the time of the accident, she was employed to clean the subject building, including the weekly removal of garbage and recycling from the basement.  She was engaged in the performance of this task at the time of the accident and testified “there was a lot of garbage” in the basement, including “cardboard all around.”
The Court acknowledged that while a landowner has a duty to provide workers with a safe place to work, one “need not guard against hazards inherent in the worker’s work.”  The Court found defendants met their burden by showing the risk of slipping on cardboard was inherent in plaintiff’s work, relying on <em><a href="">Wagner v Wody </a></em>and<em> <a href="">Imtanios v Sachs</a>.</em>
This is the first time the Court has ruled unanimously as both <em>Wagner</em> and <em>Imtanios</em> had dissenting opinions.  In <em>Wagner</em> a sanitation worker was injured when a piece of glass in the garbage bag he was lifting pierced his leg.  The Court found that a worker “may not hold others responsible if he elects to perform his job so incautiously as to injure himself.”
In <em>Imtanios</em>, a porter was injured when he slipped on discarded computer parts.  The Court found that defendants owed no duty to plaintiff to keep the floor clean as that would lead to the absurd conclusion that one was to hire a cleaning service to clean the premises for the cleaning service.  It is refreshing to see courts using common sense in slip and fall cases brought by people hired to remedy the very condition that is the cause of their injury.  Thanks to Mehreen Hayat for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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