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The Climb (up the ladder) to Contractual Indemnification (NY)

April 3, 2018

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In <em><a href="">Wojciech v. Schafer Mews Housing Development, et al.</a>, </em>plaintiff, an electrician, was injured when he fell from a makeshift wooden ladder while helping to unload supplies.  The ladder was approximately five feet above ground to the first-floor slab of the building under construction.  Although plaintiff’s employer provided an A-frame ladder, plaintiff was unable to use it to access the slab because the ground was covered in dirt, debris, and rocks.  The First Department determined that plaintiff’s decision to use the makeshift ladder, which other employees were also allegedly using, was not the sole proximate cause of the accident where he was never instructed not to use it.  Additionally, were no proper safety device was provided, the fact that plaintiff’s boots may have been untied or that he may have descended the ladder backwards was not the sole proximate cause of his accident.
The court further determined that plaintiff’s accident arose from the means and methods of accessing the slab.  Since there was no dispute that plaintiff was supervised and solely directed by his employer, Demand Electric, Inc., the owner defendants, Mega Contracting Group LLC and Schafer Mews  Housing Development Fund Corporation, were not negligent in the happening of the accident.  Based on the forgoing, the First Department affirmed the motion court’s decision granting the owner defendant’s motion to summary judgment on their claim against Demand Electric, Inc. (plaintiff's employer) for contractual indemnification.
Plaintiff’s employer was solely responsible for providing plaintiff with the materials and equipment that proved to be inadequate for the task of carrying supplies up to the first floor slab.  Where there was no evidence that the owner defendants supervised, directed, or provided equipment to plaintiff, the court found that they were not negligent for the accident and entitled to contractual indemnification from plaintiff’s employer.  Thanks to Alicia Massidas for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.


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