The Dark Staircase

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Q: I was employed by a subcontractor on a heating renovation project.  Early one winter afternoon, while descending a staircase into the basement of the building where we stored our tools, I fell.

The light at the top of the stairs was on.  I could see the bottom of the stairs from the top.  It seemed to get darker and darker as I descended.  Maybe I had some snow blindness from entering the building from outside.  I had used the stairs without a problem many times in the past, including at least two times that day.

My coworker says that he had descended the stairwell on the morning of the accident.  Same as for several months, there was no light bulb in the light fixture at the bottom of the stairs.  He could not tell when he reached the bottom.  The only light in the bottom area was from a room beyond a basement doorway.

A: Section 200 of the Labor Law is a codification of the common-law duty imposed upon an owner or general contractor to provide you with a safe place to work.  Liability for a violation of section 200 and common-law negligence arises where you establish that the accident arose from a dangerous condition on the work site and the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the condition and failed to remedy it within a reasonable amount of time.  Here, the hazardous condition is the lack, or inadequacy, of lighting in that stairwell.

Section 241 of the Labor Law imposes a nondelegable duty of reasonable care upon owners and contractors to provide you with reasonable and adequate protection and safety.  To prevail on a section 241 claim, you must demonstrate the violation of a regulation setting forth a specific standard of conduct applicable to the working conditions which existed at the time of the accident and that the violation was the proximate cause.  Seemingly, you have a strong section 241 claim premised on 12 NYCRR 23-1.30, a regulation codifying the minimum amount of illumination required at construction work sites.

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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