There are still cases where New York's courts will hold a contractor absolutely liable for a construction site accident.
In a March 9 decision in Palaguibay v. 605 West 48th Street, LLC, the plaintiff was working in a mixed-use commercial/industrial building as a laborer, and was specifically charged with the responsibility of cutting a hole in the floor of an elevator motor room. In order to accomplish this task, it was necessary to use a blow torch.
As the blow torch was being used, however, the workers became worried about a potential explosion because the gas tank that was feeding the blow torch was located rather close to the workers. As a result, the plaintiff decided to move the gas tank out of the elevator - which was located beneath the motor room floor - and into a safer location one floor above where they were working.
Since plaintiff was not furnished with any safety equipment, there was nothing to break or stop his 15' fall when he slipped off the beam above the elevator car.
In rendering a decision finding the defendant completely at fault for the construction site accident as a matter of law, the Court held as follows:
"In the instant action, the defendant failed to provide a harness or safety belt which would have been attached to the plaintiff and then affixed to the wall or floor above so as to prevent him from slipping and then falling not only the three feet to the ceiling of the elevator cab, but through it to the floor of the cab for total of approximately fifteen feet (15'). The issue as to the use or presence of the ladder below the catwalk but above the elevator ceiling is irrelevant since it would not have provided safety as contemplated by Labor Law §240(1) since plaintiff fell from the catwalk itself."