Construction Accidents

“The Scaffold Law” – New York Labor Law § 240

Property owners, tenants and contractors are liable for injuries to individuals that a contractor hires for work associated with a property, if the injury occurs as a result of falling objects or from a fall from height.

The Scaffold Law provides a special right of recovery to construction workers who are injured from an elevated risk. It puts the responsibility for a contractor’s worksite safety squarely on the shoulders of the property’s owners, tenants and the contractors who hire the workers. New York courts have broadly defined “fall related accidents” as any change in elevation or contact by falling objects.

The Scaffold Law frequently produces liability and a right of recovery where none would typically exist for the construction worker. This law imposes absolute liability against a property owner, tenants, and contractors. Under the statute, liability is assumed. The only issue to be resolved at trial is the amount of damages. Because of these factors, the issue of whether a case falls within the statute is typically highly contested and is a subject often litigated in appellate courts.

New York Labor Law § 240 is applicable to apartment buildings, commercial buildings, and three (or more) family homes. It is not applicable to one and two family homes. Additionally, the work must be on a structure, which typically means a building, but can also mean rail cars, subway tunnels, water towers, garages, bridges and boats.

The Scaffold Law is also only applicable to very specific types of construction work: (1) erection; (2) demolition; (3) repairing; (4) altering; (5) painting; (6) cleaning; (7) pointing of a building; and (8) erection of scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, handers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes and other devices. There are other types of labor that are not covered: (1) changing light bulbs; (2) changing pictures; (3) cleaning by a maid; (4) inspection of the construction work in progress; (5) salvage operations; (6) routine maintenance, such as changing HVAC filters, etc.; and (7) installation of drapes.

One way to easily analyze whether you or someone you love may have a claim under the Scaffold Law is to ask yourself whether the incident involved the FORCE OF GRAVITY. The goal of § 240 is protect workers from the dangers associated with gravity, meaning that to apply the statute, the incident must have occurred when the worker fell or when the worker was struck by a falling object.

Find out whether you or a family member has a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via phone at 212-605-6200 or by submitting an email inquiry (see form to the right). Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

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