New York construction law places extensive obligations on property owners and general contractors to provide a safe work environment. The New York Labor Law (NYLL) allows workers and others to file civil suits for damages if violations of safety requirements cause injury. These claims can be made in addition to claims under the common law of negligence. Section 241(6) of the NYLL codifies the set of safety regulations known as the Industrial Code. Recent court decisions from New York Appellate Courts demonstrate how workers in New York State can assert claims for injuries caused by violations of § 241(6).
Section 241(6) of the NYLL applies to all sites where “construction, excavation or demolition work” is ongoing. It requires any site to be “constructed,…operated and conducted” in a way that “provide[s] reasonable and adequate protection and safety” to anyone “lawfully frequenting” the site. It authorizes the New York Department of Labor to promulgate rules to allow effective enforcement. The Industrial Code, found in Title 12, Chapter I, Subchapter A of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), is the result of this authorization. It includes regulations regarding construction and demolition operations, as well as building codes, and rules for equipment like elevators and boilers.
The New York Appellate Division, Second Department described § 241(6) as a “nondelegable duty of reasonable care upon owners and contractors.” Lopez v. New York City Dept. of Envtl. Protection, 123 A.D.3d 982, 983 (2014). Under the common law theory of negligence, a defendant is liable for damages when they breach of a duty of care owed to the plaintiff, and that breach causes the plaintiff injury. Section 241(6) essentially states that property owners and general contractors owe a duty of care to construction workers to abide by the Industrial Code.
Two 2018 decisions from the Appellate Division, Second Department address important elements of § 241(6) claims. In both cases, the court reversed orders granting summary judgment to the defendants.
In Rodriguez v. 250 Park Avenue, LLC, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s own actions “[broke] the causal nexus” between any violation of the Industrial Code on its part and the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff, who worked as an elevator mechanic, claimed violations of an Industrial Code rule covering the use of pulleys and wire ropes. His injuries occurred while he was crawling through “an enclosed concrete crawl space underneath the elevator motor room.” The court found that the defendant had failed to establish that the plaintiff’s actions were “not foreseeable in the normal course of events,” among other claims.
The defendant in De Jesus v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad denied owing any duty of care to the plaintiff at all. The plaintiff was not an employee of the defendant. He worked for a tree removal company, and was working on removing a tree that had fallen during Hurricane Sandy onto catenary wires over railroad tracks. While cutting the tree trunk, tension in the wires released, “propelling the tree into the air.” Part of the trunk landed on the plaintiff’s leg. The court held that, since the plaintiff’s work was “ancillary to the repair of the catenary wires,” he could claim damages under § 241(6).
Construction accidents can cause devastating injuries or death. The knowledgeable New York accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel are available to discuss your legal rights and options. Please contact us at 914-428-7386 or online today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.