New York Labor Law Sections 240 and 241 give workers the right to sue for construction accidents and can impose strict liability on contractors and property owners who violate these sections. Both sections contain exemptions for “owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work.” In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Rendon-v.-Callaghan.pdf">Rendon v. Callaghan</a></em>, the Appellate Division, Second Department recently addressed whether this exemption extends to a detached garage on a separate lot.
In <em>Rendon </em>, the plaintiff was allegedly injured when part of a detached garage roof he was repairing collapsed. The defendant’s premises had two adjacent lots that had separate addresses and were taxed separately. The garage was on one lot and the defendant’s home was on the other.
Plaintiff sought recovery under common-law negligence and Labor Law §§ 200, 240 (1), and 241 (6). The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment under Labor Law §§ 240 (1) and 241 (6), determining she did not direct or control the work being performed and was entitled to the homeowners’ exemption contained in those provisions. Furthermore, the defendant established the work was performed at a residence for only one or two families.
The Third Department affirmed, finding that defendant demonstrated her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the causes of action against her. In making its determination, the Court considered the ‘site and purpose’ test to determine if the homeowners’ exemption applied. The work being performed by the plaintiff was related to the residential use of the defendant’s home and she did not direct or control the work; regardless of whether the garage was on a legally separate lot from the defendant’s home. The Court observed that the garage was an extension of the dwelling, the repairs had a substantially residential purpose, and the two lots were treated as one lot.
As to the common-law negligence and Labor Law § 200 claims, the Court found that the defendant did not create the dangerous condition or have actual or constructive notice of the condition, namely, the structural deficiency in the garage roof. The Court considered whether the presence of a leak was sufficient actual or constructive notice of a structural deficiency but found that such a condition was latent and not discoverable upon reasonable inspection.
The <em>Rendon </em>case serves as a reminder that New York courts will typically avoid a rigid interpretation of the homeowners’ exemption under the Labor Law, and that the exemption does apply to a detached garage satisfying the flexible ‘site and purpose’ test.
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