When you take a job working in construction, you may face many challenges on the job. Having to work without proper safety equipment and protections should not be one of them. For one man injured while working on the exterior of a new fast-food restaurant, that’s exactly what he claimed happened to him. In his case, recently decided by the Appellate Division, First Department, his proof indicating that he received no safety equipment was enough to trigger the rule of “absolute liability” within Section 240 of the New York Labor Law and entitled him to win a liability decision in his favor against the defendants. This man’s case serves as a clear example of how “absolute liability” potentially can help you, as an injured worker, win your case without even having to go through a full trial.
The injured worker was assigned to a job affixing tiles to the exterior of the restaurant building. While performing this task, he fell from a ladder. The fall took place because, when he attempted to step from the ladder onto a nearby scaffold to continue doing his tile work, the ladder shifted and tilted. The injuries he suffered led him to pursue a lawsuit. One of the claims in his lawsuit accused the restaurant and the general contractor of violating Section 240(1) of the Labor Law. This section of the law requires owners and workers to provide workers with proper protection.
In a construction injury case like this, obtaining summary judgment in your favor is extremely powerful. It means that you have won your case on the issue of liability. The remaining issues at trial will focus exclusively on how much you should be awarded in damages by a jury. These types of judgments allow you to hold the defendant(s) liable without having to go through the added time, expense, and stress of a full trial. In this tile worker’s case, the Appellate Division concluded that the proof he provided to the trial court was enough to be a sufficient “prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability under Labor Law § 240(1).”
One of the key pieces of the worker’s evidence was a sworn affidavit stating that he received absolutely no safety equipment that would have protected him while he worked atop the ladder and scaffold. This affidavit was especially important because the law says that once you, as an injured worker, demonstrate that an “owner or contractor failed to provide the necessary safety devices required to give a worker ‘proper protection,'” Section 240(1) imposes what’s called “absolute liability” on the defendant(s).
Once you’ve triggered absolute liability, the only way the defendants can avoid liability is to show that a disputed material fact existed. These defendants attempted to do that by challenging the assertions in the worker’s affidavit by using an “unverified accident report and a few unverified medical records,” along with an unsworn statement submitted by the worker’s employer. This type of proof can be enough to avoid summary judgment in some cases, but only if the defendants have additional evidence to go along with the uncertified documents. The law says that records without proper certification cannot, by themselves, be enough. Since that is what took place here, the proof in support of the defendants’ position was inadequate, and the worker was entitled to his summary judgment.
When you take on a construction job working from heights, there are several things that those in charge should do to ensure your safety. These may include providing lifelines, belts, or harnesses, among other safety equipment. If the safety device fails or you are injured because you were not provided with the correct or any safety devices, you may have a legal claim for your injuries, and your case may not even require you to prove their negligence or even go to trial in order to succeed. If you or a loved one has been hurt working in construction, call the law offices of Jacob Oresky for legal help and to learn more about your rights under the Labor Law. Our team of New York City construction accident attorneys has handled many difficult cases successfully for clients throughout the New York metro area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island. We pride ourselves on providing our clients with attentive, personal service and diligent representation in the pursuit of settlements and judgments that will meet their present and future needs.
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