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Questions Surrounding Identity of Employer Precludes Summary Judgment

October 7, 2016

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In Labor Law and common-law negligence cases involving accidents in the workplace, questions of fact as to the identity of the plaintiff’s employer sometimes arise, impeding summary judgment success.
In<a href="http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/calendar/webcal/decisions/2016/D49922.pdf"> <em>Lam v. Sky Realty, Inc</em></a>., plaintiff, a day laborer was asked by an acquaintance if he wanted to work one day on a renovation project, and he agreed.  Plaintiff was given a handheld grinder, and shown where to cut an opening in a metal fence on the roof.  While using the saw, the blade came loose injuring plaintiff.  The building owner and tenant having renovation work performed moved to dismiss the Labor Law 200 and common-law negligence claims on the basis that they did not direct the means and methods of plaintiff’s work.  However, since it was unclear who plaintiff’s employer was, who hired him, and who provided the saw, the court denied the motion finding issues of fact as to the roles of each of the parties.
This case highlights the importance of eliminating questions of fact before moving for summary judgment.  The identity of the “acquaintance” and who provided the saw etc. might have gone a long way in convincing the court to grant summary judgment.
Thanks to Lauren Branchini for her contribution to this post.
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