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Why Some NY Construction Site Accident Cases Should Never See the Inside of a Courtroom

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Jonathan Cooper
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In an opinion that was published on April 21, New York's Appellate Division, Second Department upheld a lower court's decision dismissing the personal injury lawsuit of a construction worker who was hurt when the tree stump he was leaning on to maintain his balance broke off, causing him to fall down a slope. While I, like anyone who's been litigating accident cases for a sufficient period of time, have lost some close cases, I find this particular case troubling because I don't see any legitimate reason why the defendants could be deemed liable for this construction site accident. Stated differently, and given the Appellate court's clear and convincing affirmance of the dismissal, I don't think this case should have been brought in the first instance.

As noted in my articles Construction Site Injuries and New York's Labor Laws and Construction Site Accidents: Why the Number of Successful Cases Are Dwindling, in order for a defendant to be held liable under the Labor Laws for a construction worker's personal injuries that were sustained while on the site, the injury must have resulted from an elevation-related risk or safety hazard. That certainly was not the case here. And the plaintiff could not demonstrate that the remaining defendant, Staten Island Railroad Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), a subset of the New York City Transit Authority, exercised any ownership or control over the area or tree stump where he fell, as a result of which the plaintiff's negligence claim fell by the wayside as well.

Given that the plaintiff's attorneys went to the time and expense of appealing the lower court's decision, I suspect that the plaintiff's injuries in this case were quite serious, and that they were therefore seduced by the prospect of a big fee. But if you can't conjure up a cogent theory of liability to make it stick, you still shouldn't bring the case.

Category: Construction Site Accidents

Jonathan Cooper
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