An important recent decision from the New York Appellate Division ruled in favor of a worker who fell off a ladder while hanging audio speakers for his employer’s client. The decision is important because it serves as a reminder that statutes like New York’s “Scaffold Law” exist to protect workers injured in New York construction accidents, and the courts should interpret them in a way such that they provide broad protection for those workers. In this recent case, that meant defining “altering” a structure to include drilling holes and hanging brackets for audio speakers.
The worker was a finisher who, on behalf of his employer, was restoring and installing wood paneling on walls at a client site, a Jewish center on Long Island. Immediately before the finisher began doing his paneling work, he and co-workers removed two audio speakers from a wall. Once the paneling work was completed, a rabbi employed by the center asked the team to re-hang the speakers.
This task involved drilling holes and installing brackets. The finisher got the first speaker up without an issue. On the installation of the second speaker, though, the eight-foot-tall A-frame ladder provided by the center “suddenly started swinging.” That caused the finisher to fall and suffer injuries.
The worker filed a lawsuit against the center to recover compensation for his injuries. One of his claims was that the center was liable and he was entitled to recovery based upon Section 240(1) of the Labor Law. The finisher’s case seemed to have several elements that an injured construction worker would need for success. He was standing on a ladder. He suffered a “gravity-related” incident. He was injured in the fall.
But there are many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to succeeding in your construction accident case. In this situation, the center fought against the worker’s case by arguing that, despite the fall, the ladder, and the injury, the worker’s case didn’t meet all of the requirements demanded by the statute. Specifically, what the center argued successfully in the trial court was that the finisher was injured while hanging speakers and that hanging speakers was not one of the activities covered by Section 240(1), which allows workers to sue only if they are involved in “the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure.”
The worker appealed this ruling, and he won. He won because the trial judge interpreted the list in the statute (erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing) too narrowly, the Appellate Division decided. The goal of the statute, the Appellate Division explained in its order, is to protect workers from injury. To achieve that purpose, judges should read the statute’s text liberally, meaning that words like “repairing,” “altering,” and “cleaning” should be interpreted in a broad way that allow more, rather than fewer, injured workers to pursue their cases.
The statute was designed to cover workers working on construction projects, even if the precise task the worker was doing was only something connected to the actual construction, as opposed to the actual construction itself. A proper interpretation of the word “altering,” in this context, would clearly be broad enough to include a worker drilling a hole and installing a bracket in order to hang a speaker from a wall after installing paneling on that same wall.
If you’ve been injured in a construction setting, your case needs several things. It needs the accumulation of evidence and witness testimony. It also needs carefully crafted legal arguments. These are but two of the areas where your knowledgeable New York attorney can help. The skilled New York City ladder accident attorneys at the law offices of Jacob Oresky have been diligently representing people on construction jobs throughout the New York metro area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island, and we have the experience, resources, and commitment to personalized client service to help you with your case. Call us to find out more about how we can help you.
More Blog Posts:
New York City Worker Who Fell from Wobbly Ladder Wins In Accident Case, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, June 12, 2017
The New York Scaffold Law—An Introduction, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, March 2, 2017
Ladder Kicks Out, Should I Call A Lawyer?, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, Dec. 22, 2016
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