This has nothing to do with the fact that I am a fan of Tom Brokaw's (I think he was and is a fine reporter and news anchor). I am just encouraged when courts get the right result, and dismiss private citizens from cases where they shouldn't have been sued in the first place.

In Sigal v. Brokaw, et al., the plaintiff sustained serious personal injuries when he fell from scaffolding that he was using to paint the Brokaws' apartment. But while workers may, as a general rule, recover damages for their gravity-related injuries that were caused due to inadequate safety equipment under New York's Labor Law §240(1), there is also an important exception to this rule: when the work is being done on a one or two-family dwelling. (For more on this topic, please see "The Most Important Exception to Owner/Contractor Liability For Worksite Accidents in NY").

In this case, the Court summarized its basis for dismissing the Brokaws from this case as follows:

"The Brokaws have established their prima facie entitlement to summary judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that they were not negligent, and that they are statutorily exempt from liability under Labor Law §240(1) because they [as the proprietary leaseholders for the subject cooperative apartment] fall under the exception contained in the statute for the "owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work." It is undisputed that the Brokaws did not "direct or control the work."

The Court further explained as follows:

"The Appellate Division, Second Department has expressly ruled that a cooperative apartment is a one-family dwelling within the meaning of Labor Law §240(1) (Maciejewski v. 975 Park Ave. Corp.; 37 A.D.3d 773 [2d Dept. 2007]; Xirakis v. 1115 Fifth Ave. Corp., 226 A.D.2d 452 [2d Dept 1996]) ... holding the Brokaws liable as agents would be contrary to the purpose of the statutory exemption which is to protect those owners "who are not in a position to know about, or provide for the responsibilities of absolute liability" (Cannon v. Putnam, 76 NY2d 644, 649 [1990]."

Given the sound reasoning of the decision (and the apparent availability of other defendants in this case), I seriously doubt that the plaintiffs will appeal this decision.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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