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When Does the Homeowner’s Exemption Apply in a Labor Law Case? (NY)

December 30, 2021

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Capuzzi-v.-Fuller.pdf">Capuzzi v. Fuller</a></em>, 2021 NY Slip Op 07335 (3d Dep’t, December 23, 2021), the Third Department recently addressed whether a homeowner was entitled to the homeowner’s exemption in a New York Labor Law lawsuit. Plaintiff in that case alleged that he was hired to perform construction at defendant’s home and sustained injuries in a fall while installing floor joists. Plaintiff sued the homeowner for negligence and violations of Labor Law § 200, 240 (1) and 241 (6).</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis of the homeowner’s exemption, arguing that although he visited the construction site and observed the progress of the work, he did not supervise, control, or direct the plaintiff’s work. In opposition, plaintiff alleged that he discussed “work orders, logistics, materials and the architectural drawings” with the defendant. The trial court denied the motion.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Third Department outlined the exemption by noting that “[A]lthough both Labor Law § 240 (1) and § 241 impose nondelegable duties upon contractors, owners and their agents to comply with certain safety practices for the protection of workers engaged in various construction-related activities, the Legislature has carved out an exemption for the owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Based upon the facts of the case, the court reversed the decision of the trial court and found that plaintiff could not demonstrate that the defendant “directed or controlled the manner of plaintiff's work”, and that the §241 and 240 claims should have been dismissed. The court also held that the Labor Law § 200 claim should have been dismissed as the defendant did not control the “manner or means in which plaintiff was to install the floor joists.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Capuzzi</em> serves as a reminder that: 1) New York homeowners could have potential Labor Law liability if they are directly involved in supervising and controlling construction work in their homes; and 2) the homeowner’s exemption should be pursued in cases where such involvement or control does not exist.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to Corey Morgenstern for his contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="mailto:agibbs@wcmlaw.com">Andrew Gibbs</a> with any questions.</p>

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