Addressing what could easily be descibed as a Rube Goldberg-type construction site accident, on August 8, a New York appeals court ruled that summary judgment for the plaintiff had been improperly granted by the Bronx trial court, and remanded the case for trial.

In Rodriguez v. DRLD Development Corp., the plaintiff was tasked with re-taping and polishing sheetrock walls, and was injured when she tripped over cable that was lying across the floor, fell into sheetrock, which in turn caused several 8' sheetrock sheets that were balanced on two-foot high blocks and then leaned against a wall to tip over onto her.

In modifying the trial court's order to deny both the defendants' and the plaintiff's applications for summary judgment, the appellate court held that the two-foot height differential was enough to trigger New York's Workplace Safety Statute, Labor Law 240(1), stating:

"The Supreme Court correctly held that section 240(1) applies to this case even though the sheetrock that fell upon plaintiff was located on the same first-floor level as plaintiff (see Wilinski v 334 E. 92nd Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 18 NY3d 1 [2011]), and was not being hoisted or secured (see Fabrizi v 1095 Ave. of the Ams., L.L.C., 98 AD3d 864, 865-866 [1st Dept 2012]). We find no inconsistency between plaintiff's deposition testimony and her averment that at the time the sheetrock fell on her, it was leaning against the wall and resting atop blocks of wood approximately two feet high, a sufficient height differential to implicate § 240(1)'s protections (see Lelek v Verizon N.Y., Inc., 54 AD3d 583, 584 [1st Dept 2008])."

However, the Court also held "[N]evertheless, it cannot be determined, on the extant record, whether plaintiff's injuries were proximately caused by the lack of a safety device of the kind required by Labor Law § 240(1) (Wilinski, at 11)."


Jonathan Cooper
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