An Unstable Ladder

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Q: One day, I got a call from Barry, offering me work.  We arrived at the premises, a one-story building that appeared to contain a car repair business.  Engines, car parts and pallets were strewn all over the floor.

Barry instructed me to remove old pipes and other items hanging from the ceiling.  He gave me an A-frame ladder.  The presence of the pallets and engines prevented me from placing the ladder squarely on the cement floor, so I put part on the cement floor and the other part on a pallet.  No one held the ladder steady.

After less than five minutes, I tumbled off.  Barry took me in a van to the hospital, screaming out in pain as the vehicle hit bumps.

A: An owner of commercial property is liable for a violation of Section 240(1) that proximately causes injury to a worker, even though a tenant of the building contracted for the work without the owner’s knowledge.  Section 240(1) of the Labor Law imposes a non-delegable duty on the commercial owner – even when the job is performed by a contractor the owner did not hire and of which it was unaware, and therefore over which it exercised no supervision or control.

Failure properly to secure a ladder to insure that it remains steady and erect constitutes a violation of section 240(1).  So long as a violation of the section proximately results in injury, the owner’s lack of notice or control over the work is not conclusive.  There is strict liability in this context.

On the other hand, unless the owner had actual or constructive notice of this dangerous condition, or either directed or controlled your work, you cannot prevail against it on a claim of common-law negligence or under section 200 of the Labor Law.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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