A New York appeals court found that a worker’s fall injury was from a hazard unrelated to the need for scaffold rails and granted summary judgment in the Labor Law case to the property owner.
The court ruled that the injured worker’s fall down stairs on a worksite fell outside of the state’s law covering scaffolds and safety rails.
Tripped over decorative fixture, fell down stairs
Mykhaylo Ohar, a mason and painter, was injured while working on a construction project at a building owned by 91 Central Park West Owners Corp.
Ohar was carrying a bucket of glue while on his way to the locker room at the end of his work day when he tripped over a rug-covered decorative fixture at the top of a stairwell. He fell in front of the steps to the lower section of a scaffold below. At the time of the incident, the scaffold stairs lacked a handrail.
Lower court says owner wasn’t liable
Ohar filed a Labor Law claim against the owner and the general contractor. He later died and the administrator of his estate took over the claim.
After the administrator took over the claim, 91 Central Park West moved for summary judgment to dismiss the claim, which a lower court granted because it said the owner couldn’t be held liable for the incident.
Injury was from ‘usual, ordinary dangers of a construction site’
The administrator appealed the decision, and the appeals court upheld the lower court decision. The appeals court found that the “extraordinary protections of (the specific Labor Law section) extend only to a narrow class of special hazards, and do ‘not encompass any and all perils that may be connected in some tangential way with the effects of gravity.'”
This Labor Law statute’s core objective “in requiring protective devices for those working at heights is to allow them to complete their work safely and prevent them from falling,” the appeals court said. “Where an injury results from a separate hazard wholly unrelated to the risk which brought about the need for the safety device in the first instance, no (Labor Law) liability exists.”
In this case, the appeals court found there was no indication that the scaffold and stairs didn’t allow Ohar to safely complete his work at heights. Instead, Ohar’s injury stemmed from a separate hazard unrelated to the risk that required the need for safety devices related to the scaffold. The injury was the result of “the usual and ordinary dangers at a construction site.”