Labor Law 15 : Volunteer

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Q: For some time, my friend had wanted to erect a shed on his property to house some machinery.  “If you are willing to build my shed in the afternoons,” said my friend, “then in the mornings you can participate in my turkey hunt.”  For more than a week, I hunted on his property and worked on the shed.  One morning, as I was standing on an extension ladder attempting to install a rafter, the ladder kicked out beneath me.

A: Under Labor § 240(1), a contractor or owner who contracts for the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure must generally furnish or erect scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes and other proper protective devices.  The strict liability provisions of this statute apply to an employee – but not to a volunteer.

If you were not obligated to complete the shed, and you did not receive any monetary compensation, then the law is likely to say that you were merely a volunteer.  So far as you have told me, your participation was merely casual assistance.  This was an informal arrangement that did not give rise to mutual duties or obligations and bore none of the traditional hallmarks of an employment relationship.

But no lawyer will give up so easily: it is to be hoped that there is a helpful twist to your story that you have failed to mention.  For starters, whose ladder was this, and who placed it there?  Although you may not have a claim under the Labor Law, you may well have one for negligence.

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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