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WCM Obtains SJ For Property Owners in Construction Accident (NY)

June 26, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">New York State, unlike most other States, has strict liability statutes that impose absolute liability onto a property owner or general contractor under certain circumstances when a laborer is injured on their premises.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Within that statute is an exemption carved out only for owners of one- or two- family homes who contract for, but do not control the work of the contractors. The purpose of this exemption is to protect one- or two- family homeowners who may not have experience in the field from liability wherein they have no actual involvement in the work.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Annunziata v. NY Specialty Infusion Services, et al</a></em> Richmond County Index No.: 150160/2018, plaintiff Joseph Annunziata was allegedly injured while working as a mason on a complete renovation of the one- family dwelling owned by NY Specialty Infusion Services, a corporation created solely for ownership of the home. The principals and sole owners of the company and home, Mr. and Mrs. Shams, contracted with plaintiff’s employer Rock Solid for all work on the exterior of their private home.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Mr. and Mrs. Shams were not present during the work, did not reside within the premises as the work was ongoing and would only visit the site periodically to check on the progress of the work and to make aesthetic decisions, such as paint colors or tile styles. The testimony of all parties, including plaintiff, showed that Mr. and Mrs. Shams did not have any involvement with the day to day direction or control of the jobsite or the work of the individual workers.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff testified that he had one conversation with the Shams wherein they discussed where the barbeque was to be placed in the built in patio kitchen. Plaintiff directed the Shams to speak with his supervisor and never spoke with them again.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In opposition to the motion, co-defendant Bella Home Improvements argued that because the Shams hired plaintiff’s employer themselves, and could have stopped the work if they wanted to, they should be deemed a contractor and not only the homeowner for purposes of the Labor Law. The Court found that argument unveiling in that the statute expressly states that it protects those who contract for, but do not oversee or direct the work on the jobsite.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff opposed the motion claiming that the conversation about the barbeque or the Shams’ visits to the site to discuss paint colors were enough to be considered direction or control. The Court was similarly not persuaded by plaintiff’s argument and found that the Shams, through their company NY Specialty was entitled to the protections of the homeowner exemption and dismissed all claims against NY Specialty in their entirety.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">While the Labor Law is typically a death sentence for a property owner in New York, a homeowner still has a fighting chance to prevail if they truly were not involved in the day to day aspects of the work. To date, no party has appealed the Court’s decision.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Congrats to Dana Purcaro on the victory.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.</p>


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