Court Denies Plaintiff Summary Judgment On His Labor Law §240(1) Claim In Case Involving a Falling Unsecured Piece of Sheetrock

In a decision dated January 29, 2020, Justice Barbara Jaffe of the New York County Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s moton for summary judgment as to our client, 60 Hudson Owner, LLC, on the plaintiff’s cause of action pursuant to Labor Law §240(1). The plaintiff, an employee of non-party, Northern Bay Contractors, Inc., was hired to perform work at 60 Hudson Street, owned and operated by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that during the course of his work he was struck by a falling, unsecured piece of sheetrock and there were no adequate safety devices provided to prevent it from falling. The Court seized upon the fact that plaintiff was unable to adequately describe the size or weight of the subject sheetrock, and that the evidence he presented was insufficient to demonstrate that the subject sheetrock either plummeted from more than a minimal height or that it was sufficiently heavy to warrant the use of a safety device. Had the Court found either to be the case, Labor Law §240(1) would have been applicable, yet firmly based upon the affidavits the defendant presented, the Court did not. Furthermore, the Court found the defendant’s witness affidavits compellingly indicative of a question of fact between plaintiff’s version of events and the defendant’s version of events. In particular, one of the defense witnesses affirmed that the sheetrock weighed between one to three pounds, measured 18 by 12 inches, and questionably could not have generated the force that Labor Law §240(1) jurisprudence has required concerning the weight of falling objects. Finally, the Court found that there was the likelihood, once again based upon the defendant’s witness affidavit that the sheetrock was in the process of being installed, in which case it certainly could not have been secured because to secure it would have been “contrary to the objective of the work plan.” Based on the defendant’s fact witness affidavits which supplied details regarding the nature of the work taking place and the dimensions/weight of the sheetrock that fell, as well as the defense liability expert’s professional opinion as a construction site safety expert that the sheetrock was not required to be secured, the Court concluded that the defendant raised issues of fact requiring the denial of the plaintiff’s motion.

Victor Vega v. 60 Hudson Owner, LLC, Index No. 158179/2016 (N.Y. Co. Sup. Ct., Jan. 29, 2020)

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