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Court dismisses labor law claim by worker who fell from bucket

New York

A New York appellate court on Tuesday ruled that the defendants in a Labor Law action were entitled to summary judgment dismissing the worker’s claims based on his alleged fall from a bucket he was using as a ladder.

In February 2014, Angel Morales filed suit against 50 North First Partners LLC and Bayport Construction Corp. for injuries he allegedly sustained when he was working at an apartment complex in Brooklyn that was under construction and owned by 50 North. Mr. Morales asserted claims for negligence and violations of labor law, according to Morales v. 50 N. First Partners LLC, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in Brooklyn, New York.

According to Mr. Morales, his job was installing stacked washer and dryer units in apartments. He claimed he was standing on an inverted bucket in order to reach the power cable for a unit that he had just pushed into a closet when the bucket slipped out from under him, and he fell.

The defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the claims against them, which a judge granted.

In affirming, the appeals court explained that the protections the state’s labor law extend only to a narrow class of special hazards connected with the effects of gravity and that liability doesn’t apply when the plaintiff did not need protection from the effects of gravity in order to perform his work. The court added that when the plaintiff’s actions are the sole proximate cause of his injuries, liability does not apply.

The record showed that Mr. Morales was the sole proximate cause of his injuries, as a ladder was not necessary for him to do his work. Prior to the alleged accident, Mr. Morales testified that he had installed approximately 20 stacked washer and dryer units without using a ladder. He also testified that the units had wheels, so he could have moved the washer/dryer out of the closet rather than stand on a bucket to reach the power cord.

The court said the defendants were entitled to dismissal of the workplace safety and negligence claims and that the record established that the defendants did not have authority to supervise or control the performance of Mr. Morales’ work.

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