In a case involving a worker who fell from a wobbly ladder, the courts concluded that he was entitled to summary judgment (meaning a resolution in his favor based upon written motions without the need for a full trial) on the issue of liability. One of the keys to his success was a recent opinion that the New York Court of Appeals issued.
The plaintiff in this case was a worker in the Bronx whose duties required the use of a ladder. The ladder, according to the worker, was missing two of its rubber feet. While the worker was standing on the ladder to do his job, the ladder allegedly wobbled and spun, causing the worker to fall and suffer injuries.
The worker sued for his construction injuries, asserting that the defendant violated Section 240(1) of the Labor Law. Although Section 240 is often known as the “Scaffold Law,” it covers not only workers on scaffolds but also workers on ladders, roofs, stairs, open platforms, and other height related work. In this case, the worker argued that the ladder he was using failed to provide him with proper protection. The ladder, he contended, was inadequate, and, as a result, he was entitled to a summary judgment against the defendant on the issue of liability. The trial judge agreed and issued the judgment in favor of the worker.
The defendant appealed. Earlier this year, in March, New York’s highest court issued a ruling in a Section 240(1) case that was a defeat for that worker. The court wrote that the “fact that a worker falls at a construction site, in itself, does not establish a violation of Labor Law § 240(1).”
Following the reasoning the Court of Appeals used in that March case, the Appellate Division upheld the lower court’s ruling that sided with this injured worker. While the high court made it clear that a construction worker’s fall alone doesn’t give a worker a Section 240(1) case, it also acknowledged that in “cases involving ladders or scaffolds that collapse or malfunction, ” there is “a presumption that the ladder or scaffolding device was not good enough to afford proper protection.”
The plaintiff here gave testimony that he was working on a ladder missing two rubber feet and that the ladder wobbled and spun for no apparent reason. In other words, the plaintiff presented a case which showed that the safety device failed. This was enough to win unless the defense presented compelling proof to the contrary. In this case, the defendant offered the testimony of a superintendent who testified that he arrived at the scene 30-60 minutes after the accident and found the ladder standing. Without anything more from the defense, this was not enough. The Appellate Division decided that, without additional proof about what happened to the ladder between the accident and the superintendent’s arrival, it would be too speculative to deduce, based solely on the superintendent’s testimony, that the ladder never fell over and was therefore not inadequate.
Winning your construction accident case requires many things. One of these things is knowing how to take the facts and the law that apply to your case and present them to the court in a way that is as effective and persuasive as possible. This is one area in which experienced counsel matters. To learn more about pursuing your construction accident case, contact the New York City ladder accident attorneys at the law offices of Jacob Oresky. Our team has been helping injured construction workers throughout the New York metro area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island, for many years. Call us to put our skills, experience, and commitment to personalized client service on your side.
For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call our office at 718-993-9999. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More Blog Posts:
Ladder Accidents: New York’s Labor Law Can Help You in Your Construction Accident Case, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, June 12, 2017
Ladder Kicks Out, Should I Call A Lawyer?, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, Dec. 22, 2016