The Supreme Court of New York, Third Department (appellate court), recently upheld a summary judgment decision for the plaintiff, Joseph Miranda III, in a construction accident lawsuit. Miranda sustained a traumatic brain injury in a fall of approximately 30 feet at an Albany construction site.
Commonly referred to as “The Scaffold Act,” Labor Law section 240 governs construction site fall accidents. Section 240 imposes strict liability on contractors. owners, and their agents; should the defendant be found in violation of the statute, no contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff can mitigate the defendant’s responsibility. The statute dictates compliant procedure to ensure the safety of workers. It clearly defines acceptable safety devices to be used when working in an elevation-risk setting as: “scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, [and] ropes.” When the appropriate safety devices are not present at a construction site and a worker suffers a fall, courts will generally find for the plaintiff regardless of other circumstances.
In lieu of any of the above listed safety measures, the defendant in this case utilized a “safety monitoring system,” whereby a designated worker is in place to warn other workers of there proximity to the edge. The court found that because a safety monitor offers no tangible physical support, the defendant violated Labor Law 240. On this issue of the suit, because there was no contested issue of fact, the court upheld partial summary judgment for the plaintiff. Based on Section 240, the court found that as a matter of law, the plaintiff necessarily prevailed on this issue of liability.
Other issues of fact existed in this case. One main lesson is clear: contractors and construction entities have a duty to protect the safety of their workers. This duty is guaranteed under the law, and courts have and will continue to uphold this guarantee. Joseph Miranda III has been left with a lifelong handicap as a result of negligence. With the court’s help, at the very least he and his family have the peace of mind of knowing that the company has had to take responsibility for their negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a scaffolding fall or any other type of construction-site injury, please contact the experienced attorneys at Gallivan and Gallivan today.
Miranda v. Norstar Building Corp., 79 AD3d 42 (3rd Dept. 2010).