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How to Prove Liability for a Falling Object at a New York Construction Site


Although we've previously discussed the general parameters of how to prove a construction site accident case under New York law, a recent decision from a Queens County trial court in the case of Rodriguez v. D & S Builders, LLC, et al. targets one specific type of New York Labor Law 240(1) case: those involving falling objects at work sites.

In Rodriguez, a construction site worker was tragically killed when some concrete forms that had already been loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck fell or slid over onto the worker, crushing him. Unfortunately for this worker's family, the trial court facts of this case were insufficient to warrant a finding of liability under New York's Labor laws. According to the trial court, here's why:

"In cases involving falling objects, to establish liability under Labor Law section 240(1), a plaintiff must show more than simply that an object fell, thereby causing injury to a worker (see, Narducci v. Manhasset Bay Assocs., 96 NY2d 259 [2001]). Rather, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the object fell, while being hoisted or secured, because of the absence or inadequacy of a safety device of the kind enumerated in the statute (see, Narducci, 96 NY2d at 268; Novak v. Del Savio, 64 AD3d 636 [2nd Dept. 2009]). The statute also does not impose liability even if the injury is caused by an inadequate or malfunctioning hoist or other enumerated safety device, absent elevation differentials (see, Ross, 81 NY2d at 501)."

In this case, the deposition testimony of the decedent's co-worker showed that at the time of the accident, the bundle of concrete forms was completely resting on the bed of the truck; it was not elevated above the work site when the incident occurred. Therefore, the special risk of being hit by an object falling from a higher elevation was not implicated in this instance, rendering inapplicable Labor Law Section 240(1).

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer