As previously noted in "How to Prove a Construction Site Accident Case in NY" and  "How Negligence Principles Are Applied to NY Worksite Accident Cases," there is a critical distinction between NY Labor Law Section 200, which is also known as the general liability provision of the Labor Law, and the latter two statutes, Labor Law 240(1) (also known as the "Scaffold Law") and Labor Law 241(6) (dealing with Industrial Code Violations) which are specifically targeted at worker and worksite safety.


The distinction, in relatively simple terms, is that while Labor Law 200 requires the plaintiff to prove that there was a defective condition at the worksite that the defendants knew, or should have known, about yet failed to remedy the condition in a timely way. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendants' failure to timely remedy this condition proximately caused the plaintiff's accident and resulting injuries. In legal terms, this doctrine is referred to as "notice," and is the same degree of proof required in every garden-variety negligence case, such as in a car accident or slip and fall action. Under Labor Law Sections 240(1) and 241(6), however, the plaintiff has a more relaxed burden of proof; he need only demonstrate that the defendants violated those statutes, and that his injuries were directly related to the violation of those statutes.


As a corollary to this rule, there is yet another difference between the statutes: an owner's vicarious liability for the accident.


To that end, one of New York's appellate courts recently summarized this rule as follows:


"Section 200 does not impose vicarious liability on owners and general contractors (see generally Ross v Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Elec. Co., 81 NY2d 494, 502, 506 [1993] [comparing Labor Law § 241(6), a vicarious liability statute, with section 200]). Liability under section 200 only attaches where the owner or contractor had the "authority to control the activity bringing about the injury to enable it to avoid or correct an unsafe condition" (Russin v Louis N. Picciano & Son, 54 NY2d 311, 317 [1981])."


Jonathan Cooper
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