Plaintiffs asserting Labor Law § 241(6) claims must show that their injuries were proximately caused by a violation of an Industrial Code rule or regulation. One of the primary defenses available to defendants in such actions is that the worker-plaintiff was the “sole proximate cause” of the alleged injuries.
In <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Scoz-v-JY-Elec.-Intercom-Co.-Inc-2016-NY-Slip-Op-01763.pdf" rel="">Scoz v J&Y Elec. & Intercom Co. Inc </a>plaintiff, an independent contractor, received hand injuries as he was cutting flooring for installation. During discovery, plaintiff testified that rather than use a purpose-built table saw, he instead used a jury-rigged device he assembled himself from an upside-down circular saw. Plaintiff deliberately disabled two safety devices to make his contraption useable, and testified that he knew the saw was unsafe as-assembled. However, he claimed that defendants had observed him using the unsafe device and neither stopped him nor provided him with better equipment.
The First Department upheld the dismissal of plaintiff’s Labor Law § 241(6) claim, noting that, as an independent contractor, plaintiff was unsupervised and responsible for choosing the best methods and tools to complete the task at hand. The court concluded that Industrial Code §§ 23 1-5(c) and 23-1.12(c) were inapplicable, because the manner in which plaintiff assembled his saw made it impossible to use protective guards or spreaders, and the saw was deliberately assembled without safety devices rather than broken and in need of repair. Plaintiff’s decision to jury-rig a tool that was inappropriate for the job at hand, and to do so in a way that disabled its safety devices, was therefore sole proximate cause of his injuries.
Thanks to Peter Luccarelli for his contribution.
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