A construction worker who was injured when a ladder collapsed under him was entitled to summary judgment on his Labor Law claim, according to a New York appeals court.
The Appellate Division, First Department found that Andres Melendez should have received partial summary judgment because his failure to ask a co-worker to hold the ladder didn’t absolve the employer of liability.
Fell when unsecured extension ladder slid, collapsed
Melendez had been using an unsecured extension ladder to descend from a sidewalk bridge when the ladder slid and collapsed under him, leading to multiple injuries. Seven people witnessed the incident.
A lower court denied Melendez’s motion for summary judgment in his favor, finding there were factual issues regarding whether the incident occurred because Melendez failed to ensure the ladder was secured before using it.
However, the appeals court found the employer failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether Melendez was the sole proximate cause of his injuries.
‘A co-worker is not a safety device’
Because the ladder had been set up by another worker before Melendez used it, any failure by Melendez to check its locking mechanism or ensure it was tied off amounted to comparative negligence, which the employer wasn’t permitted to use as a defense under the state’s Labor Law, the appeals court said.
The fact Melendez unhooked his fall safety harness before descending the ladder was insufficient to raise an issue of fact because there was no evidence that anchorage points were available for him to use.
Further, the appeals court found that Melendez’s failure to ask a co-worker to hold the ladder while he worked didn’t “constitute the sole proximate cause of the accident, since a co-worker is not a safety device contemplated by the statute.”
The court stated that “even if (Melendez) had been the sole witness to the accident, summary judgment is not precluded, since nothing in the record refuted his account of the accident or called into question his credibility.”