Generally, Labor Law Section 240(1) imposes absolute liability on homeowners and general contractors. The Legislature carved out an exception for owners of one-and two-family dwellings who are not in a position to realize, understand and insure against the responsibilities of absolute liability imposed by Labor Law Sections 240(1) and 241(6). The exception, however, does not apply to single-family residences that are used for commercial purposes
In Chester Lenda v. Breeze Concrete Corp. the defendant homeowner moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s Labor Law 240(1) and 241(6) claims arguing that he was entitled to the protection of the homeowner’s exception because he planned to use the residence for potential overflow for family guests during vacations. The lower court denied the motion and the Appellate Division, Second Department upheld the denial noting that the evidence showed that a caretaker, employed by the owner, lived in the residence rent free as part of his compensation for maintaining two of the owner’s other properties. Thus, the court held that the owner’s use of the property was strictly commercial.
In cases of mixed use, the court’s determination on whether the homeowner’s exception applies is based on the site and purpose test. This test takes into account the intention of the homeowner at the time of the injury and not their hopes for the future.
Thanks to Ed Lomena for his contribution to this post.