Firm News


Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Complaint in Construction Accident Case Involving a Union Laborer Who Was Struck By a Swinging Load on a Crane and Then Fell Into an Adjacent Trench

published on November 10, 2023

In a decision dated November 3, 2023, the Hon. Stephen L. Petrillo granted the motion brought by our clients NY-NJ Link Developer, LLC, Macquorie Group Limited, Kiewit Development Company and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety as a matter of law with prejudice. This litigation arises out of the Goethals Bridge Replacement Construction project (“the Project”).  Plaintiff, a union laborer out of Local 472 employed by Kiewit-Weeks-Massman, AJV, alleges that he was injured on October 26, 2017, when he was struck on the left side of his body by a swinging load on a crane that caused him to fall into an adjacent trench and sustain various personal injuries. In reaching its decision, the Court found that New Jersey law applied and that our clients did not owe a duty of care to plaintiff. The Court endorsed our choice of law analysis and agreed that our clients, the ownership entities of the Project, did not have any direct or indirect involvement in the means and methods of the plaintiff’s work and that none of the exceptions to the general rule applied, contrary to plaintiff’s arguments.

Erwin Campoverde v. NY-NJ Link Developer, LLC et al., Index No. ESX-L-6909-18 (N.J. Sup. Ct. Essex Co., Nov. 3, 2023)

Court Dismisses Plaintiff Carpenter’s Complaint Where He Stepped or Slipped Into a Hole in Decking

published on October 02, 2023

In a decision dated August 25, 2023, the Hon. Paul A. Goetz denied plaintiff’s motion seeking summary judgment on his Labor Law §240(1) claims and granted our clients, Tishman Construction Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety.  Briefly, the plaintiff, a union carpenter, claimed that he was injured when he stepped or slipped into an opening in the incomplete core slab plywood decking, causing him to fall part way through the opening. In his decision, Judge Goetz found that the plaintiff’s alleged accident fell within the scope of Labor Law §240(1), but determined that there was no violation since we proved that the nature of the work taking place at the accident location precluded the use of a cover over the hole or barricades around it. Judge Goetz agreed with our argument that, in opposition to our motion the plaintiff failed to raise a question of fact regarding the failure or inadequacy of any other safety device that would give rise to a violation. Essentially, Judge Goetz concluded that the defendants established that “the accident was caused by an ordinary peril of the worksite,” which did not fall within the scope of Labor Law §240(1).

With respect to the plaintiff’s Labor Law §241(6) claim, predicated on an alleged violation of Industrial Code Rule 23-1.7(b)(1) (protection from hazardous openings), Judge Goetz determined that the Rule was inapplicable since the hole that the plaintiff stepped or slipped into was too small for the plaintiff to fall through. Therefore, he determined that the Rule was inapplicable and could not have been violated. Judge Goetz also found that our clients were entitled to dismissal of the plaintiff’s Labor Law §200 and common law negligence claims against them since the accident was caused by the means and methods of the plaintiff’s work, which the defendants did not supervise, direct or control.

Javier Munoz v. Tishman Construction Corporation, etc. al, Index No. 160836/2016 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co., Aug. 25, 2023)

Court Denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Labor Law §§240(1) and 241(6) Claims, Dismisses Plaintiff’s Labor Law §200 Claim Against Contractor and Grants Contractor Conditional Contractual Indemnity Against Painting Subcontractor

published on September 06, 2023

In a decision dated August 3, 2023, the Hon. Nancy Quinn Koba denied plaintiff’s motion seeking summary judgment on his Labor Law §§240(1) and 241(6) claims, granted our client Yonkers Contacting Company, Inc. conditional summary judgment judgment on its claim for contractual indemnification against Allied Painting, Inc.; and granted YCC summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s Labor Law §200 claim against it. With respect to plaintiff’s Labor Law §240(1) claim, Judge Koba concluded that, while plaintiff was performing elevation-related job duties at the time of his accident, and that the truck platform lacked guardrails, he failed to establish that he was not provided with adequate fall prevention safety devices (the safety harness and lanyard with tie-off points). Judge Koba determined that triable issues of fact exist as to whether plaintiff was provided with adequate safety devices, whether there was a violation of Labor Law §240(1), and whether the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his injuries for failing to tie off. In her decision, the judge referenced the testimony of a witness who testified that once plaintiff stepped onto the truck, he removed his safety harness and did not put it back on prior to the accident. There were numerous other occasions when plaintiff failed to tie off, as well.

With respect to plaintiff’s Labor Law §241(6) claim predicated on an alleged violation of Industrial Code Rule 23-5.1(j)(1) (requiring the open sides of all scaffold platforms be provided with safety railings), Judge Koba determined that the subject truck platform and wings were used as a substitute for a scaffold. Therefore, Rule 23-5.1 governed the safety requirements applicable to the truck platform. Since it is undisputed that the truck platform and wings lacked safety railings, Judge Koba ruled that plaintiff proved that Rule 23-5.1(j)(1) was violated. However, a violation only constitutes some evidence of negligence, and a jury must determine whether the “equipment, operation or conduct at the worksite was reasonable and adequate under the particular circumstances.” Additionally, Judge Koba held that if it is determined that plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his injuries, then that would serve as a complete defense to plaintiff’s Labor Law §241(6) claim.

Judge Koba granted YCC conditional summary judgment on its motion against Allied Painting for contractual indemnity. YCC established that it was free from negligence, and that any liability would solely be statutory in nature. As such, in the unlikely event that plaintiff establishes Labor Law liability at trial, YCC is entitled to full contractual indemnity from Allied Painting.

Rogerio Desouza v. Yonkers Contracting Company, Inc., Index No. 55259/2020 (Sup. Ct. Westchester Co., Aug. 3, 2023)

First Department Affirms Lower Court Decision Granting Defendants’ Motion to Compel Unrestricted Authorizations Relating to Plaintiff’s Prior Accidents and Treatment

published on May 31, 2023

In a decision dated May 20, 2023, the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed a lower court decision granting the motion of our clients J.T. Magen & Company Inc. Nordstrom, Inc. Broadway 57th/58th Retail Investor, LLC, 1790 Broadway Associates LLC and ULM I Holding Corp. to compel the plaintiff to provide certain discovery. The plaintiff, a union sheet metal worker, alleged that he injured multiple body parts at work when he was struck by falling ductwork. Through investigation, we learned that he had been involved in a prior workplace accident and a motor vehicle accident and had undergone multiple surgeries. We filed a motion to compel the plaintiff to provide unrestricted authorizations for the defendants to obtain records relating to his prior accidents and treatment. The First Department unanimously affirmed the lower Court’s Order granting our motion based on a finding that the plaintiff had affirmatively placed his prior accidents and treatment in issue by commencing this lawsuit. While the plaintiff did not claim to have reinjured any of the same body parts, he did make general allegations regarding claimed restrictions on certain activities of daily living. The First Department agreed that records pertaining to the prior accidents and treatment were discoverable as the defendants were entitled to explore whether the claimed restrictions and limitations could have been caused by any of the prior accidents or treatment.

Carlos Villanueva v. J.T. Magen & Company Inc. et al., 2023 WL 3696458, —N.Y.S.3d— (Sup. Ct. Kings Co., May 4, 2023)

Court Denies Summary Judgment to Plaintiff Laborer Who Removed Plywood Covering a Vent Shaft

published on May 18, 2023

In a decision dated May 4, 2023, the Hon. Delores J. Thomas of Kings County Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment against our clients, New York City Transit Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority, on his causes of action alleging violations of Labor Law §§240(1) and 241(6). The plaintiff, a journeyman laborer, was employed by the general contractor on a project involving the installation of subway flood mitigation products in sidewalk vent grates above vent shafts.  At the time of the incident, the opening above a vent shaft was covered with a three-foot long piece of plywood weighed down by two 80-pound grates. The incident, which was captured on surveillance video, occurred when the plaintiff entered the cordoned-off work area, bent down and lifted the plywood covering, stepped forward and fell into the vent shaft. The plaintiff, who knew that the plywood covered the vent shaft, contended that he removed the plywood covering because it appeared to be debris and a potential tripping hazard; his supervisor testified that there was no reason for the plaintiff to be working in this area. In opposition, the defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to satisfy his initial burden of establishing that Labor Law §240(1) applies, based on his testimony that fall protection equipment was available to him but he did not need to use it because no work was being performed on the sidewalk vent grates, and there are triable issues of fact whether the statute was violated because the plaintiff gave contradictory testimony as to whether tie-off points for a safety harness were available. The defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to satisfy his initial burden of establishing a violation of Labor Law §241(6) because none of the cited Industrial Code regulations [23 NYCRR §§ 23-1.7(b)(1) (“Falling hazards- Hazardous openings”), 23-1.16 (“Safety belts, harnesses, tail lines and lifelines”) and 23-5.1 (“General provisions for all scaffolds”)] applied and proximately caused his fall.  The defendants also argued that the plaintiff was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of this incident and that he was the sole proximate cause of his fall.  The Court denied the plaintiff’s motion on the grounds that there are questions of fact whether the plaintiff needed safety equipment and whether he had access to it, as well as questions surrounding the plaintiff’s fault.

Mario Torres v. New York City Transit Authority, et al., Supreme Court, Kings County, Index No. 511099/2019 (Sup. Ct. Kings Co., May 4, 2023)

On April 18 and May 8, Stephen M. Cohen and Thomas J. Hall lectured at a seminar for Electra, U.S.A. entitled “Incident Management Best Practices” in New York City.

published on April 18, 2023

Second Department Affirms Lower Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Negligence Claim In Case Involving Plaintiff Motorcyclist Who Struck Construction Barrel On Expressway

published on April 15, 2023

In a decision dated April 12, 2023, the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the Order of the Supreme Court, Kings County which granted our client CCA Civil-Halmar’s (“CCA”) motion for summary judgment dismissing the negligence action.  At approximately 12:15 a.m., the plaintiff was operating a motorcycle traveling on the Cross Bronx Expressway in the Bronx when, approximately 200 to 300 feet past the end of a temporary lane closure, his front tire ran over a flattened construction barrel that was situated across the center and right lanes of the three-lane roadway, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and fall to the ground.  CCA was a contractor on the New York State Department of Transportation’s (“NYSDOT”) project to rehabilitate a portion of the Cross Bronx Expressway.  

The plaintiff alleged that CCA was negligent by failing to adhere to the contract plans and specifications for placement and maintenance of construction barrels for the temporary lane closure.  The Second Department held that CCA satisfied its summary judgment burden by submitting evidentiary proof that, in performing its contracted work on the Project, its use of construction barrels complied with New York State Standard Specifications and the NYSDOT’s Work Zone Traffic Control Plan, and NYSDOT inspectors had approved the work. The Court held that plaintiff’s opposition failed to raise a triable issue of fact because there was no evidence that CCA’s use of construction barrels contravened the contract plans and specifications. The Second Department also held that the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact whether CCA launched a force or instrument of harm by failing to adhere to the contract plans and specifications and, therefore, CCA owed no duty to the plaintiff.

Elias Corniel, et al. v. CCA Civil-Halmar International, LLC, 215 A.D.3d 731, — N.Y.S3d— (2d Dep’t 2023)

Court Denies Summary Judgment to Plaintiff Motorist Who Struck Excavator While It Was Being Moved In Roadway

published on March 22, 2023

In a decision dated March 13, 2023, the Hon. Ben R. Barbato of Bronx County Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on liability in a motor vehicle action.  The plaintiff was the operator of a vehicle involved in a collision with an excavator owned by our client, Skanska/Walsh Joint Venture.  The collision occurred at 4:00 a.m., after the plaintiff’s vehicle rounded a bend in the road and encountered the excavator making a turn into a driveway entrance at LaGuardia Airport from a designated left turn lane.  The plaintiff contends that the excavator initiated the turn when her vehicle was one car length away and the right front passenger side of her vehicle impacted the right front passenger side of the excavator; the excavator operator, William Webster, did not observe the plaintiff’s vehicle at any time prior to the collision and, due to the size and weight of the excavator, he was not alerted to the collision when it occurred.  The plaintiff argued that the excavator failed to yield the right-of-way and caused the collision by turning in front of her vehicle, in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law §§1141 and 1163(a).  In its opposition to plaintiff’s motion, Skanska challenged the plaintiff’s inconsistent testimony as to how the collision occurred.  Skanska also submitted the affidavit of a motor vehicle accident reconstruction and traffic safety expert who concluded that the plaintiff’s account of how the collision occurred was physically impossible (e.g., the excavator would have exceeded its maximum acceleration rate to reach the point of impact) and the physical evidence supported the conclusion that the impact occurred when the front passenger side of the plaintiff’s vehicle struck the rear passenger side of the excavator in a glancing blow after the excavator had essentially completed its left turn.  Judge Barbato held that the plaintiff failed to satisfy her initial summary judgment burden because her own testimony raised issues of fact as to the circumstances of this incident (e.g., she could not recall where the collision occurred in relation to the bend in the road, the speed limit or whether she had to slow her vehicle prior to the collision).  The Court noted that, to the extent that the plaintiff alleged that the excavator had been stopped in the middle of the roadway when she first encountered it, there was an issue of fact whether she violated her duty of care to avoid the collision. The Court also admonished plaintiff’s counsel for repeatedly interrupting the plaintiff at her deposition in an attempt to rehabilitate the plaintiff’s comments or otherwise clarify the record.

Yorkina Torres-Martinez v. William Webster, et al., Index No. 20291/2021E (Sup. Ct. Bronx Co., Mar. 13, 2023)

On March 15, Thomas J. Hall lectured at a seminar for Travelers entitled “Evaluating and Defending Loss of Earnings Claims by Union Construction Workers” in New York, New York.

published on March 15, 2023

Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Labor Law §200 and Common-Law Negligence Claims as to Defendant Owner and Grants Owner Common-Law Indemnification Against Employer in Case Involving Plaintiff’s Fall from Scaffold

published on January 06, 2023

In a decision dated January 6, 2023, the Hon. Mojgan C. Lancman of Queens County Supreme Court granted the motion of our client, defendant/property owner, Waterfront Resort, Inc., for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s causes of action pursuant to Labor Law §200 and for common-law negligence. The Court also granted Waterfront’s motion for summary judgment on its third-party claim for common-law indemnification against plaintiff’s employer, Wing Jay Construction, Inc. The plaintiff, while employed by Wing Jay on a project involving the demolition of an existing warehouse and the construction of a residential condominium complex at 109-09 15th Avenue, Queens, New York, allegedly fell from a scaffold and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Regarding the §200 and common-law negligence causes of action, the Court determined that the plaintiff’s accident did not result from any allegedly dangerous or defective condition at the subject premises, but rather, the means and method of the work. Additionally, it was also undisputed that Waterfront had exercised no supervisory control over the manner in which the plaintiff’s work was performed. Regarding the third-party claim for common-law indemnification, the Court found that Waterfront was entitled to indemnification from Wing Jay because Waterfront established that it was not negligent and its liability was purely statutory and vicarious.  

Yun Quan Gao et al. v. Waterfront Resort, Inc. et al., Index No. 707824/2018 (Sup. Ct. Queens Co., Jan. 6, 2023)

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