The Elevator Above

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Q: One day in my work as an elevator repairman, I was called to fix an elevator’s safety shoes (something that is unrelated to normal wear and tear).  Although it turns out there was a ‘kill switch’ located in the building superintendent’s office, I was not aware of it.  What’s more, the super did not remain on the premises while the repair was ongoing, as required by the service contract.  You guessed it: the elevator fell on top of me.

A: This elevator required securing for the purpose of your repair work.  It was a falling object within the contemplation of section 240(1) of the Labor Law.  Under that statute, the owner of a building can be subject to absolute liability for injuries which result from its failure to provide you with proper safety devices, without regard to your comparative fault.

Sometimes, a defendant will contend that the worker was the ‘sole proximate cause’ of his injury: that adequate safety devices were available, that you knew that they were available and that you were expected to use them, but that you unreasonably chose not to do so.  Here, there is such no indication.

As for section 200 of the Labor Law – common-law negligence – your attorney may be expected to contend that the owner had supervisory control over the means and methods of your work.  As one indication, the service agreement between the owner and your employer provided that the owner would shut off the power to the elevator in the case of repair.  As another, the owner (or its employees) sometimes gave you specific instructions.

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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