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New York Construction Site Accidents: Why Fewer Cases Are Succeeding

In an opinion that was handed down on April 14, the Appellate Division, First Department of New York issued a clear reminder to New York personal injury lawyers that just because a worker was injured when he fell at a construction site does not mean that he will be automatically entitled to recover damages for his personal injuries pursuant to the Labor Law [for a general discussion of the provisions of the Labor Law that pertain to construction site accidents, see our article entitled Construction Site Injuries and New York's Labor Laws]; to the contrary, unless the facts of his particular accident fall within the specific ambit of the statutes, there is a strong possibility that the case may be dismissed. This decision clearly follows the New York courts' recent trend toward a strict construction of the Labor Law statutes, and limiting injured workers' rights to recover damages for the worksite-related injuries.

In Romeo v. Property Owner (USA), LLC., the plaintiff-electrician sustained serious injuries when a raised floor tile came loose and he fell into the hole that was left by the tile. In affirming the trial court's order that dismissed the case, the Appellate Division held that the Labor Laws, which were largely enacted to protect workers from elevation-related risks, were not applicable to the facts of this case because the plaintiff fell over raised floor tiles, which did not qualify as one of the elevation-related risks that are covered by these laws. Moreover, the Court held that the plaintiff's negligence claims should be dismissed because the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the defendants affirmatively created the defective condition, nor did the plaintiff show that the defendants either knew or should have known about the defective floor tile before the accident, yet failed to remedy the defective condition before the accident occurred.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction site accident, the lesson to be gleaned from this decision is obvious:  before, and instead of, blindly believing an attorney's guarantee that you will get millions of dollars for your injuries, you should get an answer to the following two questions:

1.       Do the facts of my case fall under any of the specific provisions of the Labor Law? and,

2.       If so, which ones?

If your attorney can't answer these questions with specific statutory references, and demonstrate why your case fits within the ambit of the statutes, there is a very good chance that your case may end up getting dismissed.


Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer