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Summary judgment in ladder accident case overturned

Posted On: Aug. 9, 2022 9:51 AM CST


A divided New York appeals court on Thursday overturned a grant of summary judgment to the defendant in the case of a worker injured in a fall from a ladder.

Scott Thomas fell from an A-frame ladder that tipped over while he was carrying an approximately 90-pound piece of drywall that he attempted to hand to a co-worker who was operating a scissor lift, according to Thomas v. North County Family Health Center Inc., filed in the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, in Rochester.

Mr. Thomas sued North County Family Health Center Inc., claiming it failed to follow safety precautions for employees. The center moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, and a Jefferson County Supreme Court judge granted the motion.

The Appellate Division’s 4th Department said summary judgment was not warranted, as there was a triable issue of fact as to whether Mr. Thomas’ conduct was the sole proximate cause of the accident due to his failure to use available, safe and appropriate equipment to lift the drywall.

The court said it could not find that Mr. Thomas was the sole proximate cause of the accident, as there was evidence that a co-worker denied Mr. Thomas’ request for access to the device by refusing to reposition it to allow him to safely lift the drywall into place.

The court said summary judgment on a separate claim was appropriate since the health center established that the footings on the ladder were secure.

One of the five appellate judges dissented, saying it was established “that plaintiff knew through his training, prior practice and common sense not to carry the Sheetrock by hand up the ladder and that he was instead expected to use the provided scissor lift, and that plaintiff would not have been injured if he had chosen to use the adequate safety device rather than the inappropriate method.”

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