New York Court Nixes Injury Claim by Worker Who Fell Off Bucket

August 10, 2022
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A laborer who fell and was injured after he stood on an inverted bucket to reach a cable has nobody to blame but himself under New York law.

The worker, Angel Morales, did not need to use a bucket, ladder or any device to raise himself to reach the cable atop a washer/dryer unit he was installing. To grab the cable, he could have simply wheeled out the appliance as he had done many times in installing similar units, according to a new ruling.

A state appellate court dismissed his claims of common law negligence and violations of the state’s Labor Law against the Brooklyn apartment complex owners who hired him to install washer/dryer units. The appellate court upheld the ruling of a lower court in favor of the owners, 50 North First Partners and Bayport Construction Corp.

The court concluded that “[t]he extraordinary protections” of the state’s Labor Law “extend only to a narrow class of special hazards, and do not encompass any and all perils that may be connected in some tangential way with the effects of gravity.”

According to Morales, he was standing on an inverted bucket in order to reach a power cable for a stacked washer/dryer unit that he had just pushed into the closet before he had plugged in the power cable. He contended that the power cable was resting on top of the dryer and was out of reach, and that the washer/dryer unit, although on wheels, was difficult to move. So he stood on an inverted bucket to reach the power cable. The bucket slipped out from under him and he fell and was injured.

But the defendants established that a ladder — or bucket—was not necessary for the work. The plaintiff acknowledged he had installed approximately 20 stacked washer/dryer units without using a ladder. Each of the units was on wheels and not secured within the closet in which they were being installed. In order to reach the power cable, Morales could have moved the stacked washer and dryer out of the closet rather than stand on an inverted bucket, but he chose not to do so.

The apartment owner defendants were able to established that the plaintiff was the “sole proximate cause of his injuries” because he engaged in conduct that “unnecessarily exposed him to an elevation-related risk.”

Liability under the Labor Law “will not attach where the record demonstrates that the plaintiff did not need protection from the effects of gravity in order to perform his or her work,” the court concluded.

Topics New York

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