Decision Stinks for Sanitation Worker (NY)

In Wagner v. Wody, the plaintiff was injured during his work as a sanitation worker when taking a 30 to 40 gallon garbage bag from the curb in front of the defendants’ home to the sanitation truck.  When the plaintiff was turning to throw the bag into the back of the truck, the bag made contact with his leg, and a piece of glass approximately one inch thick and approximately three inches long cut into the plaintiff.  Inside of the bag was mail addressed to the defendants, as well as other pieces of broken glass.

The defendants moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion.  The Second Appellate Department affirmed, holding that “a small piece of glass constitutes ordinary garbage or a common item of trash, the disposal of which is a hazard inherent in the duty of a sanitation worker.”

The Court also noted that, although there are certain similar situations where a question of negligence might exist — such as where heavy construction debris is placed into an ordinary trash receptacle, the small piece of glass was clearly distinguishable.

The Court found that plaintiff was responsible for the manner in which he chose to dispose of the trash, throwin this large plastic bag into the sanitation truck. A worker who “confronts the ordinary and obvious hazards of his [or her] employment, and has at his [or her] disposal the time . . . to enable him [or her] to proceed safely . . . may not hold others responsible if he [or she] elects to perform his [or her] job so incautiously as to injure himself [or herself].”

Thanks to Jung Lee for his contribution to this post.  If you would like further information, please write to mbono@wcmlaw.com.