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Labor Law Liability Imposed Against Catholic Church (NY)

January 3, 2020

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New York’s Labor Law, section 241(6), imposes a nondelegable duty upon an owner and general contractor to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety for workers and to comply with the specific safety rules and regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor.  <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Ortega-v-Roman-Catholic-Diocese-of-Brooklyn.pdf">Ortega v Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn</a> is a prime example of how strict this rule is.

In that case, plaintiff was working as a concrete laborer at property owned by Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.  He was injured when the front leg of a three-wheeled compressor gave way, causing a portion of plaintiff’s ring finger to become severed by the bent leg of the compressor.  At his deposition, plaintiff testified that the locking mechanism that served to stabilize the front leg and wheel of the compressor had broken about two months before the accident.  To remedy it, plaintiff’s boss replaced the broken component with an ordinary screwdriver.  The accident occurred when the screwdriver popped out of the locking mechanism as he and coworkers were attempting to the push the compressor up a driveway.

The Appellate Division, 2<sup>nd</sup> Judicial Department, overruled the Kings County trial court’s denial of summary judgment sought by plaintiff.  It held that there were violations of the Labor Law, and therefore the owner of the property, Catholic Diocese, was liable for said violations pursuant to Labor Law section 241(6).  The fact that Catholic Diocese had nothing to do with fixing the compressor was irrelevant, for the Labor Law imposes a nondelegable duty on landowners to provide a safe working place for workers.

Thanks to Mike Noblett for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.

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