Entangled in the Sheets

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Q: The general contractor had given my employer a project that included affixing some plastic sheeting over the light fixtures. I selected the best A-frame ladder and made sure that it was in working order. I carried it to the area where I was to perform my work and set it up in just the right place. Along came a coworker. He was cleaning up the discarded plastic sheeting that littered the floor. He pulled a piece of the sheeting. This caused the sheeting to become entangled with my ladder. My ladder and me, we fell to the ground.

A: As things turned out, the ladder was not unshakeable enough to do its job. Labor Law § 240(1) imposes upon the general contractor a nondelegable duty to provide safety devices necessary to protect a worker against gravity-related risks. The statute addresses the dangerous conditions that are posed by elevation differentials. It imposes absolute liability for any breach that has proximately caused injury. If the contractor seeks to argue that the coworker’s conduct somehow breaks the chain of causation, your attorney will respond that the coworker’s acts were not of an extraordinary nature. The coworker’s conduct was not a superseding cause. The contractor may also seek to question the manner in which you used the subject ladder. Did you fully open it, or did you simply lean it against something? Although you recall that you actually set it up, the defense may not be so quick to let the jury believe this. It is true that contributory negligence does not exonerate a contractor who has violated the statute and proximately caused your injuries. However, if adequate safety devices are provided and you choose not to use them, or misuse them, you might be deemed the sole proximate cause of your injuries, so that liability will not attach under section 240(1)

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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