Alex Narducci et al.,
Manhasset Bay Associates, et al.,
Appellants, A&D Windows, Inc., et al.,
Manhasset Bay Associates et al.,
Zausmer Frisch Associates, Inc.,
&c., et al.,
2001 NY Int. 50
These appeals require us to examine the circumstances under which Labor Law § 240(1) liability may be imposed upon property owners and contractors when an object falls on a worker at a construction site. Neither situation presented here gives rise to liability under Labor Law § 1).
Plaintiff Alex Narducci, an employee of Atlantic
On the day of his accident, plaintiff began by working on the window frame furthest to the right of the three that he was assigned to remove. As he stood on a ladder propped against the right-most window frame sawing the frame loose, plaintiff paused, looked over and saw a large piece of glass from an adjacent window frame falling toward him. He turned to avoid being hit in the face by the glass, but was severely cut on his right arm. Plaintiff did not fall from the ladder, nor did the ladder malfunction in any way.
Plaintiff brought suit under Labor Law § 1),
alleging that he should have been given a scissor jack -- a type
of hydraulic platform -- to perform his work properly. Supreme
Court denied motions by defendants Manhasset Bay Associates,
Thypin Steel and EBH Construction to dismiss plaintiff's Labor Law § 240(1) claim, holding that issues of fact existed as to
whether scaffolding could have prevented the accident. Further,
the court denied EBH Construction's motion to dismiss plaintiff's
Plaintiff Louis Capparelli, Jr., a journeyman electrician employed by Burns Electric Co., was assigned the job of installing fluorescent light fixtures into a dropped ceiling grid as part of the renovation of Onondaga Plaza, a facility in Syracuse. The owner of the facility, Council House Realty Corp., hired Zausmer Frisch Construction, Inc. as its general contractor for the renovation, and Zausmer Frisch contracted with Burns Electric.
Planning to install a ceiling fixture, plaintiff climbed about half-way up an eight-foot step ladder in order to reach the ten-foot ceiling. From his position on the ladder, plaintiff lifted the light fixture into the ceiling grid so that its edges rested on the grid. Plaintiff's next step would have been to secure the fixture to the ceiling grid by twisting metal tabs attached to the fixture; however, as he was about to descend the ladder in order to change position to perform that step, the light fixture began to fall from the grid. Plaintiff immediately reached out to stop the fixture from hitting him, but the fixture slid as he tried to hold it, cutting his right hand and wrist. Plaintiff did not fall from the ladder.
Plaintiff brought suit under Labor Law § 1),
alleging that he should have been given a scaffold to perform his
work that day. Supreme Court denied cross-motions for summary
Not every worker who falls at a construction site, and not every object that falls on a worker, gives rise to the extraordinary protections of Labor Law § 240(1). Rather, liability is contingent upon the existence of a hazard contemplated in section 240(1) and the failure to use, or the inadequacy of, a safety device of the kind enumerated therein (see, Ross v Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co., , 81 NY2d 494, 501).
Labor Law § 240(1) "'is to be construed as liberally as
Labor Law § 240(1) applies to both "falling worker" and
"falling object" cases. With respect to falling objects, Labor Law § 240(1) applies where the falling of an object is related to
"a significant risk inherent in * * * the relative elevation * *
* at which materials or loads must be positioned or secured"
(Rocovich v Consolidated Edison Co.,
In addition, the fact that an injured plaintiff may
have been working at an elevation when the object fell is of no
Applying these principles to the facts in Narducci, the glass that fell on plaintiff was not a material being hoisted or a load that required securing for the purposes of the undertaking at the time it fell, and thus Labor Law § 240(1) does not apply. No one was working on the window from which the glass fell, nor was there evidence that anyone worked on that window during the renovation. The glass that fell was part of the pre-existing building structure as it appeared before work began. This was not a situation where a hoisting or securing device of the kind enumerated in the statute would have been necessary or even expected.
Furthermore, while the risk of falling glass is
Nor does the fact that plaintiff was working at an
elevation bring this scenario within the ambit of Labor Law §
240(1). Plaintiff does not contest that the ladder on which he
was standing functioned properly. He was not injured as a result
of a fall. Thus, since the ladder had no legally sufficient
causal connection to this injury, it could not be deemed
"inadequate" under these facts (see, Rocovich v Consolidated
Plaintiff argues that if he had performed the task on a
scissor jack it might have prevented the accident since he would
have performed his work horizontally instead of vertically and,
as a result, would have been in a different location when the
glass fell. Also, plaintiff asserts that a scissor jack might
have protected him from falling glass. As noted, however, a
scissor jack is designed to protect the worker from falling, an
With respect to plaintiff Narducci's Labor Law § 200 and common law negligence claims against EBH Construction, we hold that the motion by defendant EBH Construction to dismiss those claims against it should have been granted. There was insufficient evidence, as a matter of law, to rebut EBH's argument that it did not exercise sufficient control of the activities of subcontractors to justify the imposition of liability (Lombardi v Stout, , 80 NY2d 290, 294).
The plaintiff in Capparelli similarly fails to state a claim under Labor Law § 240(1). Plaintiff's job was to secure the light fixture into place after he hoisted it into the ceiling grid. The ceiling that plaintiff was working at was ten feet high, while the ladder he was given was eight feet tall. Plaintiff was standing no less than halfway up the ladder when the light fixture fell on his arm, causing the injury.
Under these undisputed facts, there was no height
differential between plaintiff and the falling object. Plaintiff
was working at ceiling level when his accident occurred. That
being so, this is not a case that entails the hazards presented
by "a difference between the elevation level where the worker is
positioned and the higher level of the materials or load being
hoisted or secured" (Rocovich v Consolidated Edison Co.,
While many workplace accidents, including this one,
could be classified as "gravity-related" occurrences stemming
from improperly hoisted or inadequately secured objects, courts
may nonetheless distinguish those occurrences that do not fit
within the Legislature's intended application of Labor Law §
240(1) (see, Ross v Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co.,
Accordingly, in Narducci, the order of the Appellate Division should be reversed, with costs, plaintiffs' Labor Law § 240(1) cause of action against EBH Construction, Ltd., Manhasset Bay Associates and Thypin Steel Company dismissed, plaintiffs' Labor Law § 200 and common law negligence causes of action as against EBH Construction, Ltd. likewise dismissed, and the certified question answered in the negative.
In Capparelli, the judgment appealed from and order of
the Appellate Division brought up for review should be affirmed,
1 Labor Law § 240(1) provides, in relevant part: "All contractors and owners and their agents, * * * in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed."