The Helpful Husband
Q: While renovating a lady’s house, I fell from a scaffold. Her husband alone had signed the work contract with my employer and visited the site daily to deliver materials and to monitor progress. In addition, he told me what work to do. The husband provided the defective scaffold and a safety belt, instructing me to use them to complete the work that led to my accident.
A: Under section 240(1) of the Labor Law, an owner can be liable for failing to furnish or erect scaffolding and other devices which give proper protection. Under section 241(6), he or she can be liable for violating a provision of the Industrial Code. Nevertheless, an owner of a one- or two-family dwelling used as a residence is exempt from liability unless he or she directed or controlled the work being performed. The homeowner’s exemption was enacted to protect owners who are not in a position to realize, understand, and insure against the responsibilities of strict liability imposed by these sections.
Even if the husband did not own the house, your attorney will argue that he was an agent. A party is deemed to be an agent of an owner or general contractor under the Labor Law when it has supervisory control and authority over the work being done. It is not a defendant’s title that is determinative, but the amount of control or supervision exercised.
Your attorney also is likely to argue that there was a violation of section 200 of the Labor Law, which codifies the common-law duty imposed upon an owner or general contractor to provide construction-site workers with a safe place to work.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
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