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NY Court Takes a Closer Look at Cause in Labor Law Ladder Fall

June 24, 2022

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On April 28, 2022 the Court of Appeals decided on two impactful Labor Law 2401(1) ladder fall cases.
<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Cutaia.pdf">Cutaia</a> v. The Board of Managers of the 160/170 Varick Street Condominium</em>, plaintiff was rerouting pipes near an electrical wiring by using an A-frame ladder. He leaned the ladder against the wall in the closed position due to the limitations of the space. While working on the ladder he was electrocuted and fell to the ground. The Court of Appeals reversed the First Department’s decision to grant plaintiff’s summary judgment. The Court of Appeals held that questions of fact existed as to whether the ladder failed to provide proper protection and whether injury stemmed from the ladder failed to provide proper protection or because plaintiff was electrocuted. The court stated that an accident alone is insufficient to establish a violation of Labor Law 240(1) or causation. This case clarifies that a fall from an unsecured ladder does not equal an automatic Labor Law 240(1) violation. There needs to be causation evidence.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em>David <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Bonczar.pdf">Bonczar</a> v. American Multi-Cinema</em>, plaintiff fell from a ladder in the lobby of a movie theatre as he was updating a fire system. After climbing up and down a few times, on his final descend the ladder shifted and wobbled, causing him to fall. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Fourth Departments reversal of plaintiff’s partial summary judgment on Labor Law 2401(1) liability. The court stated that a jury could have found in defendant’s favor, and therefore a factual issue existed on proximate cause of injury. This case strengthens proximate cause defense in cases where a non-defective ladder “shifts” for no clear reason.</p>
Thanks to Jennifer Tuz for her contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="mailto:Haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.

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