Plumbing Roughing, Roughs Up Electrician And Triggers Labor Law §240(1) Liability

In Cohen v. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 2008 NY Slip Op 01025, AD and New York Co. Index 110800/05, Edward Cohen, plaintiff, alleged to have sustained injury to his left knee when his left foot became ensnared between the second rung of his ladder and a nearby metal rod jutting from a wall, ultimately causing him to fall to the ground. Plaintiffs cross moved for summary judgment on their Labor Law §240(1) claim, asserting that although the ladder was not defective and allowed him to complete the task at hand, it was inadequate since it did not permit him to safely step down one rung at a time to the ground. While the trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the Labor Law §241(6) claim, it denied plaintiffs’ cross motion.

The Appellate Division – First Department, in a 3-2 decision, modified the lower court’s decision and granted plaintiffs’ cross motion since the unrefuted evidence showed that plaintiff’s fall was proximately caused by his inability to descend to the floor due to the absence of a sufficient safety device. The dissent adhered to the Court of Appeals holdings in Nieves v. Five Boro A.C. & Refrig. Corp., 93 NY 2d 914 (1999) and Melber v. 6333 Main St., 91 NY2d 759 (1998) and deemed the hazard at issue wholly unrelated to the elevated risk covered by Labor Law §240(1) and that the safety equipment provided by defendants to be adequate.