Finding of "Alteration" and Notice Sufficient to Defeat Summary Judgment
May 20, 2009
In Fuchs v. Austin Mall Assoc. LLC, plaintiff's decedent was electrocuted while replacing the ceiling of an elevator located on property owned and/or managed by the defendants. The decedent's representative commenced an action against the defendants alleging common law negligence and causes of action pursuant to Labor Law sections 200, 240, and 241(6). The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment in relation to plaintiff's claim for common-law negligence and for violations of Labor Law sections 241(6) and 200. The Supreme Court, Queens County, granted the defendants' motion. Plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the Supreme Court's ruling and denied the defendants' motion in its entirety. The Court stated that the work the decedent was performing at the time of death constituted an "alteration," and therefore fell within the scope of Labor Law section 241(6). The Court also stated that because the defendants were aware that there were energized electrical circuits in the area where the decedent was working, they had notice of a dangerous condition. As such, even if they did not have control over the decedent's work area, the fact that they were aware of the condition precluded them from prevailing on summary judgment.
Thanks to Brad Thelander for his contribution to this post.