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Striegel v. Hillcrest Heights Dev. Corp., 2003 N.Y. Int. 0111 (Oct. 21, 2003).

LABOR LAW - LABOR LAW § 240(1)- WORKPLACE SAFETY - ACCIDENT AND INJURY COMPENSATION AND PREVENTION - EMPLOYMENT LAW -ELEVATION-RELATED RISK


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue(s)

Whether Labor Law § 240(1) applies to accidents where plaintiffs are subject to an elevation-related risk, but do not actually fall to the ground.

Disposition

Yes. The application of Labor Law § 240(1) does not hinge on whether a worker actually hit the ground, but merely whether the worker's injuries were caused by elevation-related risks.

SUMMARY

Defendant development corporation hired Plaintiff's employer, a roofing and siding business, to perform work at Defendant's project site. In the course of his roofing work, Plaintiff slipped and slid fifteen to twenty feet down to the lower border of a roof, where his fall to the ground was prevented by several protruding nails which caught his pants.

Plaintiff sued Defendant for failure to observe Labor Law § 240(1), which requires contractors, owners, and their agents to provide safety equipment, such as slings, ropes, or scaffolding during construction, demolition, and repair of certain structures such as the building in question here. Defendant did not dispute either the absence of safety equipment at the job site or its duty to provide such equipment. The trial court granted Plaintiff partial summary judgment, finding that work on sloped roofs involves the elevation-related risks contemplated by the statute, and the Appellate Division affirmed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and the Appellate Division, emphasizing that the injury must have proximately resulted from an elevation-related risk. The Court noted that Plaintiff fell from the top of a roof all the way to the eaves, a fall which could have been prevented by proper safety devices. The Court further clarified that Labor Law § 240 does not turn on whether or not workers actually struck the ground, as such an interpretation would be excessively strict. The Court distinguished two prior cases, Rocovich v. Consolidated Edison Co., 78 N.Y.2d 509 (1991) and Ross v. Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co., 81 N.Y.2d 494 (1993), as not involving elevation-related risks that created liability under Labor Law § 240(1).


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