New York Construction Worker Fatality Because of Labor Law Violation

By Mallika Singh on October 29, 2019

On October 24, 2019, a worker died after falling down an elevator shaft of a building under construction in Manhattan on the west side. The incident took place just after 3 p.m. at a building that is over 30 stories high located on 30th Street and Broadway. The incident allegedly took place on the 33rd floor, but it is unclear how far down the shaft the worker fell. The construction worker was working on the elevator when he dropped his phone, police said. As he went down to pick it up, he became caught on something. The elevator then fell and a metal saddle that was protruding from the shaft crushed him, according to police. The 24-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Obviously the elevator should have been taken out of service before any workers began doing work in the elevator shaft. Working with machinery that is live, ie energized and has moving parts is an accident waiting to happen and creates an unreasonable risk of death to construction workers. 

From the revitalization of downtown Buffalo to new high-rises in the Battery, New York is experiencing a building boom. According to a website, 88 million square feet of new construction were built in New York City in 2015, a 329% increase since 2009. Yet this building boom has a dark side. Accidents, jury verdicts and settlements involving construction workers have also increased. Our New York construction accident lawyers know that the construction of New York City has been paid with the fatalities of construction workers, which is why New York state imposes strict liability for practically all accidents involving workers falling from elevated work sites or where ladders and scaffolds break, at a construction site under New York Labor Law Section 240.
New York Labor Law 240
New York Labor Law Section 240, also known as the "Scaffolding Law," was designed to protect workers from falls and/or injuries from falling objects. Classic suits could include:
•    Workers who fall from an elevated worksite – such as a scaffold or ladder – because they have not been furnished with a safety device such as a life line or other fall protection or the device malfunctioned.
•    Workers injured by debris or tools that have fallen from an elevated worksite. An owner or contractor found to be liable under Labor Law 240, even if they were not negligent because the law in New York places the responsibility on the owner or general contractor and if they fail to comply with the law they are legally responsible. Labor Law 240 does not provide an automatic award every time a worker falls from an elevated height or is hit by a falling object. However, the law is a very powerful tool for the lawyer who represents the injured construction worker and  it is estimated that injured workers win almost 90% of Labor Law 240 cases. 

Since the plaintiff’s recovery is not reduced by his/her own negligent conduct, Labor Law cases often  result in high awards/settlements because our Manhattan construction accident lawyers know that once a construction worker has an injury their ability to work can be affected for the rest of their lives. So our Westchester construction accident lawyers fight hard to make sure our clients get every dollar that they are entitled to. 

To win a Labor Law 240 case, the injured worker has to prove that the injury resulted from a gravity-related accident and would not have happened if the worker has been provided with a equipment that would have protected him.  The typical arguments that the defendants' insurance lawyers come up with is they did not violate the law and the employee is the sole proximate cause for the accident. The other common defense that our New York construction accident attorney fight against is the "recalcitrant worker defense". The recalcitrant worker defense means that there was equipment available to the worker on site and the worker chose not to use it. 

The New York  Courts' focus in a Labor Law 240 case is whether the plaintiff was engaged in activity covered by the law, whether the accident occurred as the result of a height differential, and whether the accident was of the type that the statue was passed to prevent and whether the worker was provided with sufficient equipment to provide adequate safety.


When evaluating this type of case, the court is charged with reading the statute as broadly as possible to provide recovery for the injured worker. As such, all legal questions are typically resolved in the plaintiff's favor.
 
If you have been injured in a construction accident or have a family member who died in a construction accident, our New York City construction accident attorneys can meet with you in our Manhattan office. Also our Westchester construction accident lawyers can meet with you in our White Plains office. 

 

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