A New York appeals court found that a worker whose finger was severed on the job could be granted summary judgment on his Labor Law claim since his employer didn’t provide proper lifting devices.
The appeals court reversed a lower court decision, granting the worker summary judgment without costs.
300-pound door fell on his hand
Jorge Taopanta and two co-workers were disposing of construction debris, including a heavy glass and metal door, by lifting it into a truck by hand.
Taopanta was injured when the door fell, crushing his hand between the door and the lip of the truck. This caused a finger to be severed from his hand.
Foreman claimed the door wasn’t heavy
According to Taopanta, there were no hoists, forklifts or other lifting devices on the worksite to help get the door onto the truck. He estimated that the door weighed about 300 pounds because he could lift 100 pounds by himself and he and one other co-worker were unable to lift the door together. It took all three workers to pick up the door.
Taopanta’s foreman, who didn’t witness the incident, testified that the door weighted 100 to 120 pounds and could easily be lifted by two workers without the use of a hoist of a forklift. A lower court denied Taopanta’s request for summary judgment based on this testimony.
‘Precise weight of door, height of fall didn’t matter’
On appeal, the court found that the foreman’s testimony failed to raise a question of fact regarding the door’s weight since he didn’t provide any basis for his claim that the door wasn’t as heavy as Taopanta claimed it to be.
Further, the court said, “The precise weight of the door, whether it fell from a height of 7 feet or 3 feet, or whether a dolly was being used when it fell are not material to this case.”
- it was undisputed that there weren’t any lifting devices on the job site, and
- Taopanta’s injuries “flow directly from the application of the force of gravity to the object.”
Because the gravitational force in this case was strong enough to sever Taopanta’s finger from his hand, it is “clearly the kind of harm” the Labor Law was designed to protect against.
For this reason, the appeals court reversed the lower court decision and granted Taopanta summary judgment.