Labor Law defendants prevail under homeowners exemption; defendants' progress checks insufficient to raise issue of fact

Castillo v. Kelly, Index No. 67990/2014E (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Cty. May 3, 2016)

Click on this link to view additional information in pdf format

A Suffolk County Court dismissed all claims against the defendant homeowners asserted by a carpenter who fell from the roof of their property.

The claim arose when the plaintiff was cleaning nails and debris off the second floor deck of the defendants' single family home. The property was used only as a summer home, and never rented or used as commercial property. As plaintiff walked across the roof toward a ladder, his foot slid on a new roof shingle, and he slipped and fell to the ground, about 15 to 16 feet below. He commenced this action against the owners of the premises to recover damages for personal injuries, in common law negligence and under Labor Law sections 200, 240(1), and 241(6).

In their motion for summary judgment, defendants successfully contended that they were exempt from liability under Labor Law section 240 and 241 pursuant to the "homeowners exemption". This exemption applies to owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for, but do not direct or control, work at such premises. In support, defendants demonstrated that they did not they did not supervise or direct any of the construction workers during the renovations; did not provide any tools, materials or equipment; and did not visit the premises during the renovations. Neither defendant was aware of any loose or slippery shingles on the roof.

The Court rejected plaintiff's contention that the defendant's practice of stopping by the premises every four to six weeks to the check the progress of the work raised an issue of fact. The defendants' involvement was "not more extensive than would be expected of the typical homeowner who hired a contractor to renovate his or her home."

Claims for common law negligence and under Labor Law section 200 were also dismissed, as defendants neither had authority to exercise supervisory control, nor had actual or constructive notice of any dangerous condition.

AGF&J partner Steven DiSiervi represents the defendants, and he briefed and argued the motion.