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NY App. Div. Upholds Summary Judment to Defendant in Labor Law Case

April 19, 2010

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In Bowles v. Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc., Schenectady International, Inc. hired Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. (defendant) to clean on-site bulk chemical storage tanks located at one of its facilities in Schenectady. However, Schenectady International’s policies provided that the cleaning could not take place until Schenectady International itself inspected the tank and issued a confined space permit.
Plaintiff, a safety technician at Schenectady International began to inspect the tank, and used a fiberglass ladder that had been propped against the tank rather than the ladder that was affixed to the tank. While plaintiff was on the fiberglass ladder, he reached over to place a meter on top of the tank, and the ladder kicked out from under him causing him to fall 10 feet to the floor and sustain injuries. Plaintiff and his wife sued under NY Labor Law §§ 200, 240 (1) and 241(6).
Following discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted by dismissing the complaint. The trial court found that the defendant had no authority to supervise or control plaintiff’s work and as such could not be liable under the relevant provisions of the labor law. Since the defendant had yet to even enter the property, and the record demonstrated that plaintiff’s employer, Schenectady International, rather than the defendant had control over the work plaintiff was doing, the defendant could not be liable under NY’s Labor Law provisions. Plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Thanks to Alison Weintraub for her contribution to this post.
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