On June 20, 2017, 3 construction workers were injured in Queens during the construction of an apartment building when 1200 pound laminated beams, bags of cement and other materials fell from the top floor of the building to the basement pinning the workers underneath the materials. According to the Building Deputy Commissioner, materials are to be delivered to the ground level unless an engineer confirms that the location where the materials are placed can support the weight of the materials.
New York’s Labor Law section 240(1) was enacted to protect construction workers from falling hazards either from objects falling on a worker or a worker falling from a height. The statute requires that contractors, owners and their agents provide construction workers with “scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slingers, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices.” The Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the statute is very case specific as to in what circumstances a worker is entitled to compensation for injuries.
In the case of falling objects such as what happened in the Queens accident, the Court of Appeals initially required that there be an appreciable height difference from where the object fell and where it landed for the accident to fall within the protections of the Labor Law. However, in Runner v. New York Stock Exchange, Inc. 13 NY3d 599 (2009) the Court of Appeals held that the central inquiry was not the height differential, but “whether the harm flows directly from application of the force of gravity to the object.”
In the past, the Court of Appeals limited liability for injuries from a falling object to objects that fell while in the process of being hoisted. Recent case law however has found liability where the object was stationary but the fall was a foreseeable consequence of the failure to provide a safety device enumerated in Labor Law section 240(1).
In applying the recent case law on falling objects in Labor Law cases to the Queens accident, an argument can be made that the materials that fell should have been secured and failure to do makes the owner, contractors and/or agents strictly liable for the workers’ injuries. However, this area of law in particular is constantly changing so it is important that if you are injured in a construction accident that you contact a knowledgeable attorney who can thoroughly evaluate the facts of your case and apply it to the most current law. The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have successfully obtained recoveries for workers injured in construction accidents including a $6.6 million recovery for a client who was paralyzed as a result of the accident. Contact the experienced attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP today for a proper evaluation of your accident to ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries.