A recent ruling by the Appellate Division, First Department in Manhattan was a win for construction workers throughout New York State, specifically in cases where a worker was injured in a fall from a ladder and the defendants, owners and contractors, claim the worker missed a step on the ladder. This is not to say that every injured worker who missed a step on a ladder has a case or will win their case like this injured worker, but missing a step does not mean you will necessarily lose either.
The case, Henry Nolan v. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, et al., focused on whether or not the defendants were liable for the injuries the worker suffered after falling from a ladder. The worker, Henry Nolan, was descending from a makeshift ladder after detaching a crane cable from the top of an eight foot C-box when the ladder slipped out from underneath him. He was unanimously granted partial summary judgement in his original case on October 26, 2017 by the trial court judge, but the defendants appealed that decision claiming he should have lost because one of Nolan’s co-workers testified that they saw him miss the last step.
The “missed a step” argument is a common tactic used by site owners and contractors when arguing against construction injury claims brought by workers who were injured after falling from a ladder. This is especially since in some cases, it has resulted in decisions against the injured worker. In its decision in Nolan, the Court noted that,
“In opposition, defendants failed to raise a triable issue of fact. The affidavit of plaintiff's coworker, who stated that "[he] observed [plaintiff] fall from the ladder after he appeared to have missed' the last step," does not raise a triable issue as to whether plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the accident, as it does not refute plaintiff's assertion that the ladder slid out from beneath him.”
The key point here is that the ladder was not secured properly and was able to slip out from underneath Nolan while he was working, causing him to fall and sustain injuries. Labor Law 240(1) makes contractors and site owners strictly liable for their failure to provide proper protection to construction workers using ladders. The defendants must prove that the injured worker is the “sole proximate cause” of the accident in order to defeat the injured worker’s claim. Because of this, even if Nolan missing a step that contributed to his fall, it was clearly not the sole proximate cause of the accident as the ladder was unsecured and it was defendants’ responsibility under the law to make sure it was secured.
If you were injured in a fall from a ladder on the job, The Perecman Firm is ready to work with you to ensure that you are put in the best position possible throughout every step of the legal process. With more than 35 years of experience, our NYC construction accident lawyers have the experience you can rely on, no matter what legal hurdles come up during your case. Through our efforts, our firm has secured more than $400 million in verdicts and settlements, and we’re ready to put the experience and knowledge we’ve gained to work for you. Call us at (212) 577-9325 to discuss your situation with a member of our firm today, or fill out our online form to schedule a free case evaluation.