Labor Law 17 : Trench

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Q: I work for the water company.  Our crew was dispatched with a backhoe to fix a break reported in the company’s water main, beneath the State highway.  Using a backhoe and shovels, we dug up blacktop in the roadbed and created a trench, exposing the buried water main.  I climbed down into the trench, and a side wall caved in.  Can I sue the State?

A: Labor Law § 241 (6) imposes a duty on owners and contractors to protect those employed at or lawfully frequenting areas in which your kind of work is being performed.  But ownership of the premises where the accident occurred – standing alone – is not enough to impose liability under the statute.  There must be some connection between the owner and the worker.

Apparently, you were performing excavation work on the State’s premises by reason of the water company’s own obligation to repair a break in its own water line.  And it does not appear that there was a lease agreement or grant of some property interest creating some kind of connection between your company and the State.

Did the company have a highway work permit?  If so, then the work permit would probably create a sufficient connection between the you, the injured worker, and the State, the property owner.  Without the permit, a court will probably rule that the State owed no duty under section 241.

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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