Finishing My Coffee

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Q: The roof of our home stood in need of a good power-washing. I called a handyman. Upon his request, I gave him our ladder, bleach and hose. Then I went back inside to finish my coffee. Soon I heard a thud: the ladder had slipped. I have no idea why.

A: Labor Law § 240(1) imposes a nondelegable duty upon owners and contractors to provide safety devices necessary for workers subjected to certain elevation-related risks, while engaged in such activities as erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting or cleaning. Fortunately for you, the statute includes a homeowner’s exemption – for the owner of a one- or two-family dwelling. As long as you did not direct or control the method or manner of the work, you qualify. Offhand, it sounds like you merely retained a limited power of general supervision – no more extensive than would be expected of the typical homeowner who hires a contractor. However, under general principles of negligence, you could be liable if you either created or had notice of whatever may have caused the ladder to slip. Was the ladder you gave him missing some screws? Was there a chance the handyman might place it above an underground cavern in which your son’s rock band was rehearsing? Such circumstances can make you liable.

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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