A worker at a Manhattan construction project was injured when he contacted a live electrical wire. The accident occurred because no one knew the wire was live. In this case the court found that the owner and general contractor failed to provide proper protection to the worker. The worker’s lack of knowledge of the live wire was not held against him because he was following instructions and there was no reason for him to know the wire was live. Liability was totally found against the defendants owner and general contractor and the injured worker was awarded summary judgment in his favor, imposing liability against the defendants. The owner and general contractor had an affirmative duty to make certain that the work site was safe and in compliance with safety regulations contained in the New York State Industrial Code.
William was working on a building at 330 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. He was wearing his proper protective gear (his harness) and working near a drop ceiling of the building under renovation. While doing his job, a metal piece on William’s harness touched a BX cable, which is a type of electrical wire, that was hanging from the drop ceiling. Allegedly unbeknownst to the worker, his foreman, the building owner, or the general contractor, the cable was live. This electrified cable delivered a substantial electric shock to William.
The worker commenced an injury lawsuit against the general contractor and the owner. The worker contended that he was entitled to damages as a result of the violation of Section 241(6) of the New York Labor Law. A Section 241(6) violation means that the defendants failed to live up to their legal obligation to provide workers with “reasonable and adequate protection and safety.” This failure involves a failure to meet the requirements of the Industrial Code.
In William’s case, the Industrial Code violations that he alleged were 12 NYCRR § 23-1.13 (b)(3) and 12 NYCRR § 23-1.13 (b)(4). Subsection (b)(3) requires investigating and identifying any electrical power circuit that might come into contact with workers and posting appropriate warning signs. Subsection (b)(4) prohibits allowing workers to work in places where they might contact live electrical wires.
In William’s case, there was evidence presented tending to indicate that neither William, his foreman, the general contractor, nor the owner knew the wire was live. When a situation like that happens, the injured worker can still be entitled to summary judgment on the issue of the general contractor and the owner’s liability. William was following his foreman’s instructions when he was electrocuted (which was an important fact in demonstrating that he was in no way partially to blame). He and his foreman didn’t know the wire was electrified, but neither of them had any reason that they should have known the wire was live because there were no warnings, caution tape, or other visible signs to avoid the area due to a live wire.
The fact that the defendants did not know the wire was live did nothing to diminish the plaintiff’s case because it was irrelevant to the outcome. Section 241(6) imposes liability regardless of a defendant’s “personal capability to prevent or cure a dangerous condition.”
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