The Sagging Joists

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Q:  One winter morning, I reported to work at a demolition project for a 100-year old building.  Joists made of timber still ran between what was left of the area-defining walls.  The weight-bearing ones had already been removed.  The joists were not shored or posted, in any manner.  From the top of the building to ground level, they were sagging severely – as much as two feet.

We worried about the loss of structural integrity and the generally poor, deteriorated and dangerous condition of the building, but the general contractor assured us that no danger.  A second later, from the second through the fifth floors – the stairwell and the floor joists collapsed.

Seven days prior to the collapse, an architect’s field report had noted that “conditions appear to be unsafe and the building is completely open to the elements.   G.C. to make safe and shore as required.”

A: Under section 240(1) of the Labor Law, contractors and non-home owners generally must provide devices that will protect all workers against elevation-related risks.  The defendants are rendered absolutely liable without regard to your care or lack of it.  Section 240(1) was intended to place ultimate responsibility for safety practices at building construction jobs where such responsibility actually belongs.

From what you tell me, it is unquestionable that this tragic collapse was predictable and that the owner and general contractor were on notice of the hazard, so that your case under section 240(1) is crystal clear.  Seemingly, you should be able to win handily under Labor Law § 200 and common law negligence.

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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