Labor Law Claims Dismissed Based On Proximate Cause

by ASchlossberg on October 20, 2017

The plaintiff in Merendino v. Costco Wholesale Corp., NYLJ 1202793125729, at *1 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 2017) commenced an action against multiple defendants based upon injuries he suffered when he fell from a scaffold while working on a construction site.  Plaintiff asserted a cause of action for common law negligence and a number of labor law claims against defendants, including Labor Law §240 — also known as the scaffold law.  The scaffold law was designed to protect workers from special hazards presented by gravity-related risks and requires all owners, employers and contractors to provide adequate safety equipment to workers who are engaged in the erection, demolition, repairing, painting or cleaning of buildings or structures at any elevated height and imposes absolute liability on all owners, employers and contractors for violations which result in injuries to workers suffered as a result of falls on work sites.  Defendant contractor moved for summary judgment dismissing the claims asserted against it based on a prior court order dismissing other defendants from the action because the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the accident.  Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the court was not bound by its prior decision and that the contractor failed to provide proper safety equipment to prevent plaintiff from falling.  However, Judge Bluth found plaintiff’s claims unavailing and contradicted by his own deposition testimony.  Plaintiff had previously testified that he was the boss at the job site, did not report to a foreman and controlled the manner and methods of his work.  Plaintiff further testified that a harness was available to him but that he chose not to use it “because he thought it was not necessary.”  Holding that “[p]laintiff should have known the dangers of constructing a scaffold and taken the appropriate precautions” and that “the simple fact is that plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his accident,” Judge Bluth dismissed all claims against the contractor.  A judicial trend toward eschewing strict liability in this context could be developing.

The Law Office of Aaron M. Schlossberg, Esq., P.L.L.C.

(This writing is for general information purposes only, should not be construed as legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship)

Aaron Schlossberg focuses on complex commercial and insurance coverage matters involving corporate clients, entrepreneurs and individual policyholders. Mr. Schlossberg drafts and negotiates high-level contract documents and appears frequently in state and federal courts throughout New York State. Mr. Schlossberg earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from The Johns Hopkins University and his Juris Doctorate Degree from the George Washington University Law School. Mr. Schlossberg gained invaluable insight during his post-graduate judicial clerkship and significant experience as an associate with two midtown Manhattan law firms prior to founding the Law Office of Aaron M. Schlossberg, P.C. in June 2012. Mr. Schlossberg is a published author and a seasoned presenter. He is fluent in Spanish, conversational in French and has basic knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and Hebrew. Mr. Schlossberg is a member of the New York State Bar Association and is admitted to the following courts: New York State, Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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