The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department affirmed a trial court’s order denying summary judgment for two defendants after a glass door fell on the construction worker plaintiff.
The plaintiff was working at a construction site in New York City. The site was owned by Prudential, and Pinnacle was managing the project. The plaintiff tried to walk through a glass exit door. Upon doing so, the hinge broke off, and the door crashed down onto the plaintiff. The plaintiff sustained injuries and sued the property owner and construction company for personal injury damages sustained from the construction accident.
The plaintiff made claims under Labor Law 200. Labor Law 200 is the common law negligence statute for negligence at construction sites. In making a Labor Law 200 claim, the plaintiff must show that: (1) a dangerous condition or defect existed, (2) the defendant had notice of this defect, (3) the defect injured the plaintiff, and (4) the defendant had control over the plaintiff or was responsible for supervising the plaintiff.
The defendants were unable to show that the glass door’s broken hinge did not present a dangerous condition or defect at the construction site. The fact that the hinge was broken was not contested. In fact, the foreman stated in his affidavit that the hinge had been broken for at least a week prior to the accident. The hinge kept coming dislodged from the door frame whenever the door was opened, so he and other workers had to manually push the door back into the frame.
The defendants were also unable to show that they did not have notice of the defect. The project manager and facilities director, both employed by the defendants, testified they were aware of the defective hinge but couldn’t remember if they saw it before or after the accident. The project manager also testified later that he was sure he first learned of the defective hinge after the accident. This created an issue of credibility regarding this witness, which had to be judged by the jury.
In addition, the foreman stated in his affidavit that the door became dislodged from the frame every time it was used up to one week prior to the accident. Thus every time someone walked through the door, they had to manually push the door back into its frame. Pinnacle’s property manager walked through the door multiple times during this week and must have noticed this issue prior to the accident.
The defendants were unable to prove prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law because they could not prove a dangerous condition or defect did not exist and could not prove that there was no notice. As such, the Court found the lower court’s denial of summary judgment was proper. An interesting issue arises regarding whether both of the defendants had control over the plaintiff or were responsible for supervising the plaintiff in his work. This issue was not discussed in the case decision. However, Pinnacle appears to have been directing the project and was very active on site.
It is unknown whether the plaintiff worked for Pinnacle and/or received work orders from Pinnacle. There is nothing in the appellate decision to suggest that Prudential would have been in control or supervision of the plaintiff. Prudential is a real estate developer that purchases land and hires independent contractor companies to design and build property on that land. Usually the real estate developer is not present on site and is more involved in the sale of the property than the construction of it.
If you or a loved one was injured on a construction site, call the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC today to explore your legal options.
Luebke v. MBI Group et al., 122 AD3d 514 (1st Dept., Nov. 20, 2014).