Defendant’s Failure to Secure Steel Beam Results in Summary Judgment for Plaintiff on Labor Law 240(1) Claim

In Bisram v. Long Island Jewish Hospital, a recent construction accident case, the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim, but modified the decision and granted defendants’ motion as to plaintiff’s claims based on Labor Law § 200 and certain claims based on Labor Law § 241(6).”

As to plaintiff’s Labor Law § 240(1) claim, the court held:

Plaintiff established his entitlement to summary judgment as to liability on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim by testifying that when he stepped onto the metal decking he had just laid in place but not yet fastened, the beam beneath it shifted, causing him to fall from the first-floor level of the building to the cellar level. Plaintiff testified that he was wearing a harness that was tied into a retractor at the time of his fall. However, these safety devices proved inadequate to protect him against injury resulting from falling off the beam. Defendants’ argument that plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his accident because he failed to tie his harness into the retractor line is not supported by the evidence. In addition to plaintiff’s own testimony that he was tied off before he fell, defendants’ construction supervisor observed that plaintiff was tied off 15 minutes before the accident, and plaintiff’s employer’s vice president observed that plaintiff was tied off 10 minutes before the accident.

In any event, defendants’ failure to secure the steel beam was a proximate cause of the accident. Contrary to defendants’ argument, the metal deck flooring and beam on which plaintiff was standing to perform his job duties functioned as an elevated platform. Its collapse evinces a violation of Labor Law § 240(1).

The court held, however, that plaintiff’s “Labor Law § 200 and common-law negligence claims should be dismissed since the dangerous condition that caused plaintiff’s accident arose from the means and methods of his work.” While plaintiff “established that the general contractor may have coordinated the subcontractors at the work site or told them where to work on a given day, and had the authority to review onsite safety, … those responsibilities do not rise to the level of supervision or control necessary to hold the general contractor liable for plaintiff’s injuries under Labor Law § 200.”

The court sustained plaintiff’s claim under Labor Law 241(6) that was in turn based on a violation of Industrial Code § 23-1.16(f)(1). Plaintiff was provided with the safety devices addressed in the regulation, and the devices failed to protect him.

Finally, it dismissed plaintiff’s claim under Labor Law 241(6) that was in turn based on a violation of Industrial Code § 23-1.7(b)(1)(i) and (iii), since “the area through which plaintiff fell — between the beams — when the beam beneath the metal decking on which he was standing shifted did not constitute a hazardous opening within the meaning of 12 NYCRR 23—1.7(b)(1)(i).”

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