Did a Labor Law Violation Occur?
In a recent case before the Supreme Court of the state of New York, the plaintiff claimed that a security alarm company violated Labor Law §240(1). The man wanted damages for injuries sustained when he was working on a ladder that allegedly shifted, causing him to fall to the floor. The plaintiff was a journeyman electrician employed by a third-party defendant contractor, and he was installing cables for a security system that was undergoing renovation.
The man testified that during the time he was working on the site, he observed other trades working there, including the defendant security alarm company that was supplying and installing security cameras and control boards that workers from the defendant contractor the plaintiff worked for would connect by running cables throughout the site. While the plaintiff was running cable, he lost his balance and fell off the ladder to the floor, landing on his head.
The installation manager for the security company testified that part of the security company’s work consisted of running wire throughout the building, installing main controls and power systems, plus installing other security devices. The security company engaged the defendant contractor to perform the wire installation and supplied the contractor with the wire to be installed at the site, but the security company provided no other equipment to the contractor.
According to the contract between the security company and defendant contractor, the contractor agreed to supervise and direct the work, using its best skill and attention. The contractor was to be solely responsible for all construction needs and methods and for coordinating all portions of the work under the contract. In addition, the contract stated that the contractor would be responsible for the acts and omissions of all its employees and all subcontractors, their agents and employees and all other persons performing any of the work under a contract with the contractor. The plaintiff claimed that the security company was the contracted general contractor for the project and therefore, should be held liable to a standard of strict liability under Labor Law §240(1). Section 240(1) of the New York Labor Law states that contractors must furnish or erect any ladders and similar devices, which “should be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.”
The court cited a New York case that stated that, “We have interpreted this section as imposing absolute liability for a breach which has proximately caused an injury. . .and we have determined that the duty under this §240(1) is nondelegable and that an owner is liable for a violation of this section, even though the job was performed by an independent contractor over which it exercised no supervision or control.”
The plaintiff contended that the fact that the ladder wobbled and was not being held in place showed that Labor Law §240(1) was violated, but the court indicated that the plaintiff stated the security company was not the manager for the project, and no evidence was provided that the project’s actual manager ever delegated supervisory authority to the security company. The court further went on to say, citing a former New York case, that unless the defendant had supervisory control and authority over the work being done when the plaintiff was injured, there was no liability under the Labor Law. The plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that thesecurity company was given supervisory control over the plaintiffs’ work so the complaint against the alarm company was dismissed.
Q: In many of your articles, you indicate that a motion for summary judgment was granted or that the matter was dismissed. What is a motion for summary judgment and why will or will not a motion for summary judgment be granted?
A: When a plaintiff files a lawsuit, the allegations in the lawsuit must be sufficient to raise a right to relief on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately succeed or prevail in the action, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claim. The court should not dismiss a claim unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts or any possible theory that he could prove that was consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Therefore, the court would not dismiss the claim unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts or circumstances on any possible theory that he could prove consistent with the allegations in the complaint.
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