Although much has been written about the automatic, or near-automatic, liability of an owner or contractor for a worker's injuries that were sustained at a construction or worksite that resulted from a gravity-related danger or due to their failure to furnish the worker with proper safety equipment under New York law (see, e.g., "How To Prove A Construction Site Accident Case" and "Construction Accident Liability Under New York Law"), there is an important exception to this rule, which is known as "the homeowners' exemption."

As noted in Parnell v. Mareddy, a decision that was handed down by New York's Appellate Division, Second Department on January 26, in order to receive the protection of the homeowners' exemption, a homeowner has to satisfy two prongs required by the statutes (see Chowdhury v Rodriguez, 57 AD3d 121, 126). First, a homeowner has to show that the work was conducted at a dwelling that is a residence for only one or two families (see Labor Law §§ 240[1]; 241[6]; Chowdhury v Rodriguez, 57 AD3d at 126); second, the homeowners must demonstrate that they did not "direct or control the work" (Chowdhury v Rodriguez, 57 AD3d at 126-127, quoting Labor Law §§ 240[1]; 241[6]).

In this particular case, it was undisputed that the work was performed at the homeowners' one-family dwelling, and that they did not control or direct the work being performed (presumably, and although the decision does not clarify this particular point, this was done by a contractor). Consequently, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court's holding, and dismissed the plaintiff's claims that were brought pursuant to  §§240(1), 241(6) and 241-a [Protection of workmen in or at elevators, shaftways, hatchways and stairwells].
Jonathan Cooper
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