A worker sued Cornell Grace’s client, a construction manager, claiming he was injured in an unwitnessed accident in which he says he slipped on a patch of ice on the project site. Discovery revealed no other evidence of the alleged ice. The worker alleged violations under the New York Labor Law and moved for partial summary judgment as to liability under Labor Law § 241(6) based on the construction manager’s alleged violation of Industrial Code Rule 23-1.7(d) (relating to slipping hazards).
Cornell Grace opposed the worker’s motion, pointing out that he had failed to present any admissible evidence that someone within the chain of the construction project was negligent as to the alleged ice (i.e. caused, created or had any actual or constructive notice of any ice). The court agreed and, in a well-reasoned decision, re-affirmed the well-settled (but increasingly overlooked) principle that the violation of an Industrial Code provision is merely “some evidence of negligence,” and is not sufficient on its own to establish liability against a defendant under Labor Law §241(6).
Contrary to the position being advanced by plaintiffs ever more frequently in Labor Law §241(6) matters, the statute does not confer strict or “absolute” liability against the owner or general contractor of a construction project in the way that Labor Law §240(1) does. Labor Law §241(6) is a negligence-based statute. The statute requires proof of negligence as an element for liability – just not necessarily negligence by the owner or general contractor that is sought to be charged with liability. Rather, plaintiff must show that some entity within the chain of the construction project was negligent, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing the violation. Unfortunately, courts over the past few years have been persuaded with greater regularity to grant summary judgment for plaintiffs on liability pursuant to Labor Law §241(6) based merely on evidence of the existence of an Industrial Code violation, without ever even addressing the negligence element, much less making the necessary negligence finding as a matter of law. Those decisions are wrongly decided, and defense counsel should be keenly aware of this concerning trend.
We at Cornell Grace are very pleased to have achieved a great result for our client on this motion, and we congratulate our senior associate Bill Lamboley on his skilled preparation of the briefs in this matter. We also hope this decision will serve as a reminder to our colleagues to raise this argument, and to do everything possible to ensure that the judiciary is fully informed and reminded of the well-settled law pertaining to the negligence requirement under Labor Law 241(6).
The decision can be viewed by clicking this link: Decision and Order
A worker sued Cornell Grace’s client, a construction manager, claiming he was injured in an unwitnessed accident in which he says he slipped on a patch of ice on the project site. Discovery revealed no other evidence of the alleged ice. The worker alleged violations under the New York Labor Law and moved for partial […]Learn more
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Cornell Grace, P.C. is committed to providing clients with the highest quality legal representation while maintaining the hands-on personal service of a boutique law firm. We handle cases vigorously, with painstaking attention to detail at every phase, always working in pursuit of the best resolution for our clients.