Too Short a Ladder

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Q: My neighbor owned a two-family home.  He planned to rent-out both halves and hired me to put a horizontal wooden board, running all around, under the edge of the roof.  The board would be used to hold the rain gutter.  The owner supplied me with a ladder.  I was concerned that it was too short, and told him so, but he said that the project needed to be completed before I left and proceeded to hold the ladder – while I climbed it and then stretched-out my arm to attempt the work.  Sure enough, I fell.

A: Under sections 240 and 241 of the Labor Law, a property owner must comply with safety practices for the protection of workers engaged in construction-related activities – except for the owner of a one or two-family dwelling who does not direct or control the work.  The exception stems from the fact that the typical homeowner is no better situated than the hired worker to furnish appropriate safety devices and to procure suitable insurance protection.

You appear to have a very strong argument that the homeowners’ exemption does not apply.  First, it does not encompass one who is using his premises entirely and solely for commercial purposes, and renovating a residence for resale or rental can qualify as work being performed for a commercial purpose.  Second, some of the facts suggest that this owner was directing or controlling the work.

As for section 200 of the Labor Law, it codifies the common-law duty of owners and general contractors to maintain a safe construction site.  The evidence may well show that the owner (a) created the dangerous condition that caused your fall, (b) failed to remedy it despite your complaints, or (c) exerted actual control and supervision.  Any one of these reasons has the potential to give you victory.

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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