“Fall from a roof – how much is it worth?”
May 22, 2019 | 7432 views | 0 0 comments | 553 553 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Labor Law § 240(1) protects construction workers from gravity-related risks such as falling from a height, or being struck by a falling object. Liability under this section is determined by statute. Construction site owners and general contractors can be held strictly liable for violations of this labor law. The plaintiff's fault cannot be considered, which makes this statute very plaintiff-friendly.  However, there are limits to this statute.  To sue under Labor Law § 240(1) the injured worker must demonstrate that he/she was engaged in one of the enumerated covered construction activities at the time of the accident.   

An example of violation of Labor Law §240 (1) is a case involving a worker that was injured when he fell from a ladder while attempting to remove a large satellite dish.  The worker’s company had been hired to remove an old satellite dish from the roof of a strip mall.  To complete this job, the worker was required to cut the dish into smaller pieces using a jigsaw.  To access this location, he had to utilize a ladder.  After completing this task, he began to descend on the ladder, when the ladder suddenly shifted, causing the man to fall twenty (20) feet onto the pavement below. 

The injured construction worker sued the property owner, the commercial tenant, the tenant's national property management company, the locally retained property management company, and the subcontractor who hired the plaintiff's employer.  The defendants named the employer as an additional defendant in a separate legal action.  The employer agreed that the injured worker suffered grave injuries and accordingly, the claims against it were not barred by the Workers’ Compensation Law. In New York, Workers’ Compensation Board was established to prevent filing civil lawsuits against the employer. As such no injured party can directly sue the employer. Nevertheless, any named defendant in a construction accident case can bring a legal action against the employer of the injured party. 

The defendants in this case argued that the removal of the satellite dish was not a protected activity under Labor Law § 240(1) and that the actions of the injured worker caused his accident and injuries.  The construction worker countered that the demolition and removal of the large dish was required in order to reach portions of the roof that were the subject of very significant repairs and that the work he was doing at the time of the accident was thus a necessary part of the major alteration work. The plaintiff also argued that his fall occurred during the demolition of the satellite dish and that demolition work is specifically mentioned as protected work under Labor Law § 240(1).

As a result of this accident, the injured man suffered catastrophic injuries, including skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury, resulting in a spastic quadriplegic condition with dysphagia, contractures, incontinence and loss of verbal interaction.  Because of the severity of the man’s injury it was initially feared that he would remain in a permanent vegetative state.

The plaintiff eventually regained consciousness.  His doctors stated that despite the devastating nature of his brain injuries and his inability to talk, he nonetheless displayed sufficient ability to be aware of the nature of his unfortunate situation. The plaintiff provided the defendants with a video depicting the plaintiff's mother sitting next to his hospital bed telling him a story. He smiled at the end of the story.  Plaintiff argued that this evidence demonstrated that he was able to understand the story, even though he was not able to communicate verbally.  The defendants disagreed with the plaintiff and argued that he was not aware of his surroundings after the fall.

The plaintiff also submitted an economic expert who argued that the cost of his future lifetime care ranged from $5,000,000 - $12,000,000, depending upon the level of care and whether plaintiff remained as an in-patient at a rehabilitation facility or was transitioned to his home.

The plaintiff moved for summary judgment and all of the defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s case.  While the motions were pending before the court case settled for $6,800,000.  The employer’ insurance carrier paid $5,750,000.  The plaintiff also received $50,000 from the national property manager, $350,000 from the commercial tenant, $150,000 from the landowner, and $500,000.00 from the local property management company. The subcontractor had not responded to this legal action. In addition, the employer/compensation carrier agreed to waive their workers’ compensation lien in this case of approximately $1,000,000 and agreed to cover the plaintiff's medical and related expenses for his lifetime.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at swp@plattalaw.com, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.

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