A Stairway May Constitute a Safety Device Under NY’s Labor Law

In Ramirez v. Shoats, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op 06550, plaintiff was injured when a piece of corrugated metal covering an unfinished landing of a newly constructed stairway slipped under his feet, causing him to fall from the second floor to the basement level of a building under construction. Plaintiff sought relief under Labor Law § 240(1), which provides that the owner of the premises can be held liable for failure to provide adequate safety devices for workers. The issue at hand was whether a permanent, yet unfinished stairway can constitute a safety device under the statute. In a 3-2 split decision, the Court held that the stairway was the plaintiff’s sole means of access to and from his work area and thus was a safety device within the meaning of the statute.

The dissenting opinion noted that temporary ladders were on site which provided alternative means of descent and, in any event, prior case law in New York has determined that “under no construction of the statute could a permanently installed stairway, used by the plaintiff as a place of passage, be deemed to be a scaffold, hoist, stay, ladder, sling, hanger, block, pulley, brace, iron or rope.” Ryan v. Moerse Diesel, Inc., 98 A.D. 615 (1983).

Unfortunately it seems that New York courts, yet again, have extended the grasp of the Labor Law.

http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_06550.htm

Thanks to Chris O’Leary for his contribution to this post.

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