David's Construction Accident Corner
A Monthly Column from The Perecman Firm’s Founding Partner
Hi, it’s David Perecman, owner of the Perecman Firm P.L.L.C. This is my monthly column, “David’s Corner.” In it, I will talk about the latest developments in the area of New York construction accidents. That includes news on major rulings and case law which may affect construction workers across NYC and the state, legislative updates and new laws, current industry trends, and other pertinent information relevant to workers, their legal rights, and the risks they face when on the job.
If you have questions about your own construction accident case, options, and how our firm can help, we’re available 24/7 to take your call, and offer free and personalized consultations. Contact us.
Introduction to Construction Accident Law
Labor Law 240 (Scaffold Law)
Biaca-Neto v. Boston Road II Housing Development Fund Corporation, et al.
On February 18, 2020, in Biaca-Neto v. Boston Road II Housing Development Fund Corporation, et al., the Court of Appeals of New York, our highest state court located in Albany, issued a decision regarding a construction accident case. I’m happy to say this was a good decision that recognizes the realities of the construction site for the workers. The decision was split, with four judges ruling for the worker and three dissenting.
Nasir Ali v. Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, et al.
This is an arguably significant case decided by the First Department in Manhattan. Ali was injured when an air conditioning system coil weighing more than 300 pounds fell on his leg. The coil was being transported secured to two dollies and fell as Ali and three coworkers were unloading it from a truck. As they were trying to move the coil off the lift gate of the truck, a wheel of the dolly got caught in a gap on the gate and the coil tipped over onto Ali. The court stated that Labor Law 240(1) was violated here considering the weight of the coil and the amount of force it was able to generate, even if it only fell a short distance. The court also significantly stated that “[m]oving the coil safety required either hoisting equipment or a device designed to secure the coil against tipping or falling over.” There are many situations on construction sites where workers are injured in the process or lifting or moving heavy objects where they are not provided with hoisting equipment, such as a crane or lift, to accomplish the task. This case may have an effect on whether there is liability under the Scaffold Law in those situations in the future.
Cristian Roblero v. Bais Ruchel High School, Inc.
In this case, Roblero was a plumber working at a private high school who fell from a scaffold. While Roblero rightfully won his Scaffold Law claim, the court also allowed him to go forward on his Labor Law § 200 claim which required him to show that the school had “the authority to supervise or control the performance of the work.” While it is not often that an owner is involved in the construction to a degree as to hold them liable under this law, here the school had a “representative at the worksite on a frequent basis who was responsible for job coordination and safety supervision” and also took actions to carry out that responsibility.
Wilson Cruz v. Roman Catholic Church of St. Gerard Magella
This is a strong case from the Second Department demonstrating the importance of Labor Law 240(1), otherwise known as the Scaffold Law, in protecting workers who fall from heights when they are provided with inadequate safety devices. Wilson Cruz was a laborer who fell through the frame of a scaffold which unexpectedly collapsed during the renovation of a school. The court emphasized that the unexpected collapse of a scaffold or ladder for no reason gives rise to a presumption that the Labor Law was violated by the defendant. Even though the defendant tried to argue that Cruz failed to use clips to secure the platform to the frame of the scaffold, they made this argument for the first time almost 2.5 years after the accident, didn’t mention it in any of their accident reports, and presented only conclusory statements that, at best, showed comparative negligence which is not a defense under Labor Law 240(1), and certainly did not raise an issue as to whether Cruz was the sole proximate cause of the accident.