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Managing Expectations - Second Department Upholds Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Claims After Fall During Subway Extension Project (NY)

August 22, 2017

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In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Lamar-v-Hill-Intl.-Inc.pdf">Lamar v Hill Intl. Inc</a></em>, the Second Department ironed out the standard for imposing liability under the Labor Law upon construction managers.
Plaintiff Willie Lamar was an employee of a joint venture, hired by the MTA to work on the extension of the Number 7 subway train to the west side of Manhattan. During the project, he was injured when he fell approximately ten feet from atop a stack of blasting mats. He commenced an action against multiple parties, including the project construction manager, Hill International, alleging violations of Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6). Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability on his Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6) causes of action, and the defendants cross-moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that they lacked authority to supervise or control the plaintiff’s work, and therefore were not liable under the Labor Law.  The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the Second Department upheld the trial court’s decision, and explained that for a construction manager to face liability for alleged violations of Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6), the plaintiff must demonstrate that the construction manager “had the authority to exercise supervision and control over the work that brought about the injury so as to enable the defendant to avoid or correct an unsafe condition.” As a construction manager is neither a property owner nor a general contractor, it will generally not face liability under the Labor Law unless it acts as an agent to either of those entities. To be considered owner of general contractor’s agent under the Labor Law, a party must have “supervisory control and authority” over the plaintiff’s work.
Hill’s contract with the MTA provided that Hill was responsible for coordinating the work, in terms of cost, time, safety, and quality control -- but the contract did NOT provide Hill with authority to supervise or control the work of the contractors, including the plaintiff's employer.  If an unsafe condition was found, Hill was empowered to make recommendations, provide instructions to contractors regarding correcting unsafe conditions, and stop work only in the event of an emergency. Moreover, the parties’ own deposition testimony showed that Hill did not supervise or control the plaintiff's day-to-day work.
Accordingly, Hill made a <em>prima facie</em> showing that it did not supervise of control the work, and the dismissal was affirmed.  Thanks to Evan King for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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