First Department Reverses Lower Court and Denies Plaintiff’s Motion For Summary Judgment On Labor Law § 240(1) Claim In Case Involving Worker’s Fall From Stilts

In a decision dated June 14, 2022, the Appellate Division reversed the Order of the Supreme Court, New York County and denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim against our client, DOLP 205 Properties II LLC, the landowner. The plaintiff, a plasterer employed by non-party Varanos Group Inc. QCC, allegedly fell when a screw came out of one of the stilts he wore to apply drywall compound to a 10-foot ceiling. On appeal, the First Department held that, given the nature of the work that the plaintiff was performing at the time of his accident, his one-to-four foot fall presented a physically significant elevation within the meaning of Labor Law § 240(1), but there were issues of fact and credibility whether the plaintiff’s assigned task at the time of the alleged accident involved an elevation-related hazard that implicates statutory protection.

Defendant submitted evidence from the plaintiff’s boss, including an affidavit and a transcript of his Workers’ Compensation Board testimony, that he specifically told plaintiff he was not permitted to use stilts and was instead to work only on the ground level. At deposition, plaintiff acknowledged that his boss gave him his initial assignment that day but denied any prohibition on using stilts; plaintiff contended that, when he arrived at his assigned work area, a Varanos supervisor named “Julio” directed him to work on stilts. The First Department held that, evidence that the plaintiff’s boss specifically instructed him to only work on the ground level and not to use stilts raised triable issues of fact whether plaintiff’s duties were expressly limited to work that did not expose him to an elevation-related hazard within the purview of Labor Law § 240(1), and there were issues of fact and credibility whether any such orders were “superseded” by instructions from the alleged Varanos supervisor “Julio” because the plaintiff’s boss denied that Varanos employed anyone named Julio and/or that he authorized this person to oversee the plaintiff’s work.

Christina Gonzalez v. DOLP 205 Properties, LLC et al., 206 A.D.3d 468, 171 N.Y.S.3d 61 (1st Dep’t 2022)

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