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NY Court Of Appeals Sends Shocks Through Labor Law 240(1) Claim

November 23, 2016

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We previously reported on the appellate decision of <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/?s=nazario"><em>Nazario v. 222 Broadway, LLC</em></a>, in which the First Department held, over a strong dissent from Justice Tom, that a plaintiff who falls from an A-frame latter after receiving an electric shock from a light fixture he was removing had established a <em>prima facie</em> case that his ladder provided him with inadequate protection. The First Department reasoned that because the ladder was not secured so as to prevent it from falling over if plaintiff was shocked while working, the unsecured ladder was a violation of the Labor Law and the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. Justice Tom, by contrast, believed that the First Department was straying too far from established Court of Appeals precedent and their sister Departments, all of whom have held that falling from an A-frame ladder after receiving an electric shock, by itself, is insufficient to establish liability as a matter of law.
In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Nazario-v-222-Broadway-LLC-2016-NY-Slip-Op-07823.pdf">Nazario v. 222 Broadway, LLC</a>, </em>the Court of Appeals adopted Justice Tom’s dissent without saying so in so many words. The Court determined that questions of fact existed as to whether the A-frame ladder in question failed to provide plaintiff with the necessary protection, and whether plaintiff should have been given additional or alternative safety devices. The Court cited to its earlier decision in <em>Blake v. Neighborhood Hous. Servs. Of N.Y. City</em> for further guidance. Sharp-eyed readers will note that Justice Tom had warned his fellow panel members that their decision had departed too far from the Court’s <em>Blake</em> decision, and that the appellate court needed additional evidence concerning whether the ladder was defective or whether additional safety devices were necessary before granting summary judgment to plaintiff.
While we await a new decision from the First Department concerning whether additional safety measures were necessary or would have prevented plaintiff’s injury, the Court of Appeals has clearly signaled that it does not believe that falling from a ladder after receiving an electric shock, alone, establishes a Labor Law § 240(1) claim.
Thanks to Peter Luccarelli for his contribution.
For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.

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