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Dix Hills Personal Injury - Second Department holds that hanging a speaker is an alteration pursuant

In Eddie goodwin v. Dix Hills Jewish, 2016 NY Slip Op 07293 (2d Dep't. November 9, 2016), the Second Department reverses the Supreme Court that granted the motion for summary judgment dismissing the Labor Law Section 240(1) cause of action. The work here was done on a temple in Dix Hills, New York. The Plaintiff was restoring and installing wood panel when the Plaintiff was asked to remove speakers. When the job was nearing its end, the Rabbi (head of the temple) asked that the Plaintiff hang the speakers again. Complying with the request, the Plaintiff worker climbs the ladder and falls trying to rehang the speakers. He sues.

"To successfully assert a cause of action under Labor Law § 240(1), a plaintiff must establish that he or she was injured during the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure'" (Enos v Werlatone, Inc., 68 AD3d 713, 714, quoting Labor Law § 240[1]; see Moreira v Ponzo, 131 AD3d 1025, 1026). The purpose of Labor Law § 240(1) is the protection of workers from injury, and the statute " is to be construed as liberally as may be for the accomplishment of [that] purpose'" (Zimmer v Chemung County Performing Arts, 65 NY2d 513, 521, quoting Quigley v Thatcher, 207 NY 66, 68 [internal quotation marks omitted]). But the Plaintiff was simply hanging a speaker, right? Wrong:

The plaintiff met his burden in moving for summary judgment (see Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562), with evidence demonstrating, prima facie, that he was engaged in the "altering" of a building at the time of his accident such that he was entitled to the protections of Labor Law § 240(1)...." [A]ltering' within the meaning of Labor Law § 240(1) requires making a significant physical change to the configuration or composition of the building or structure" (Joblon v Solow, 91 NY2d 457, 465; see Saint v Syracuse Supply Co., 25 NY3d 117; Belding v Verizon N.Y., Inc., 14 NY3d 751). By contrast, "routine maintenance and decorative modifications" do not constitute the "altering" of a building or structure (Joblon v Solow, 91 NY2d at 465, citing Smith v Shell Oil Co., 85 NY2d 1000 and Brown v Christopher St. Owners Corp., 87 NY2d 938; see Hatfield v Bridgedale, LLC, 28 AD3d 608, 609). Here, the plaintiff was engaged in the alteration of a building, as the installation of wood paneling, which changed the dimension, thickness, and composition of the sheetrock walls and steel doors, constituted a significant physical change to the configuration or composition of the building (see Saint v Syracuse Supply Co., 25 NY3d 117; Belding v Verizon N.Y., Inc., 14 NY3d at 752; cf. Adika v Beth Gavriel Bukharian Congregation, 119 AD3d 827).

The Plaintiff here was on a ladder securing a speaker. Although he was not a construction worker or working on the side of a skyscraper, "[t]he intent of [Labor Law § 240(1)] was to protect workers employed in the enumerated acts, even while performing duties ancillary to those acts" (Prats v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 100 NY2d 878, 882). The Court states that the fact that "[t]he plaintiff was injured while rehanging a speaker that he and his coworkers had removed to enable them to install the wood paneling and, therefore, we conclude that the plaintiff was injured while performing work that was "ancillary to" a covered activity, entitling him to the protections afforded by Labor Law § 240(1)" Id. (citation omitted). "To myopically focus on a job title or the plaintiff's activities at the moment of the injury would be to ignore the totality of the circumstances in which the plaintiff and his employer were engaged in contravention of the spirit of the statute which requires a liberal construction in order to accomplish its purpose of protecting workers" Aguilar v Henry Mar. Serv., Inc., 12 AD3d 542, 544 [internal quotation marks omitted]).

The Court holds that the "defendant's contention that the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the accident because he failed to keep his center of gravity within the confines of the ladder is without merit." (citations omitted). When you are injured, call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515. Slip and falls, especially a fall from a ladder, can result in serious injury. New York Labor Law claims should be handled by an experience lawyer.

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