Labor Law 8 : Floor

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Q: At a renovation project, I was working as a demolition laborer.  The project involved the demolition of all interior walls and the removal of all debris and bathroom and kitchen fixtures.  Essentially, the interior of the building was being gutted and rebuilt.  However, the permanent wooden floors were not to be removed in the course of the project.  One day, the permanent floor on which I was working collapsed.

At the time of the accident, my only safety devices were a hard hat, a pair of gloves and a cloth facemask.

A: In a case under Labor Law § 240(1), you are relieved from demonstrating a number of elements you would have to prove in a common-law negligence claim, including that defendants breached a duty of care owed to you and that defendants created or had notice of a defective condition.  Moreover, owners and general contractors are liable under the statute regardless of whether they supervised or controlled the work being performed when you was injured, and principles of comparative fault are irrelevant under the statute.

However, you must establish that (1) the task required you to work at an elevation, (2) you were exposed to the effects of gravity at that elevation and fell as a direct result of the force of gravity, and (3) the protective devices envisioned by the statute, e.g., ladders, scaffolds and similar devices, are designed to prevent the hazard that caused the fall.

Your case looks good.  First, you were required to perform your task on a floor that was elevated.  Second, you were exposed to the effects of gravity.  Third, the protective devices envisioned by the statute were designed to prevent a worker from falling through a collapsing floor; harnesses and safety lines attached to a safe structure such as a permanent wall are designed to prevent a fall like the one you experienced.

You also must demonstrate that an absent or defective protective device of the type enumerated in the statute was a proximate cause of you injuries and that the risk of injury from an elevation-related hazard was foreseeable.  To establish foreseeability, your attorney will need to gather information on the condition of the floor prior to its collapse: e.g., that it was rotted and decayed.

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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