Plaintiff working outside of protections of Labor Law; Court dismisses 240, 241 and 200 claims

Edgardo DeGracia v. Hunts Point Terminal Market, Inc. and The City of New York, 309998/2011 (Sup.Ct. Bronx Cty. 2018)

Click on this link to view additional information in pdf format

The plaintiff was working for a fruit and vegetable vendor and needed to stock display racks with fruits. To obtain the produce inventoried high off of the ground, plaintiff stood on a pallet that was raised by a co-worker using a forklift. While being raised, the forklift jerked causing the plaintiff to fall from a significant height. A Bronx Court found that this work was outside the protections of the New York State Labor Law and dismissed his claims on motion for summary judgment. The decision serves as a useful reminder of what the Labor Law was intended, and not intended, to do.

The Court found that plaintiff's claim pursuant to Labor Law section 240(1) failed because he was not engaged "in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure", but merely performing routine maintenance - restocking produce. Also, there was no evidence he was involved in any construction work. Thus, even though his injuries were height-related, section 240(1) did not apply.

The Court similarly found that his Labor Law section 241(6) claim failed because plaintiff was not engaged in construction, excavation or demolition work at the time of the accident.

Finally, plaintiff's Labor Law section 200 claim also failed, based upon basic elements of a duty of care that were required. Defendant showed it did not exercise supervisory control or have any input into how plaintiff was to perform his work. Defendant neither created the alleged condition nor had actual or constructive notice of it. It was simply an out-of-possession landlord with a right of re-entry to maintain and repair.

AGF&J partner Steven DiSiervi briefed and argued the motion, with the assistance of associate James M. Brown.

New York Labor Law is a powerful statute that protects workers involved in many potentially dangerous activities. However, a vigorous defense can protect the interests of a premises owner. This decision is an example of the important principle that, under the provisions of the Labor Law, not all elevation-related claims can result in liability under the Labor Law.

If you have questions about the New York Labor Law, or whether operations on a premises may come within the scope of the statute's protection, please contact Steven DiSiervi.