Weddings: Falling in Love and Falling Under the Labor Law (NY)

While many people have been known to fall in love at weddings, some just fall, and now the owner of the wedding facility may be on the hook. New York’s Appellate Division recently held that a wedding chupah (canopy) can qualify as a “structure” under New York State Labor Law.

In McCoy v. Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill, Inc., the defendants hosted a wedding ceremony at its facility, which included use of a chupah.  A chupah is a canopy under which a bride and groom are married as part of Jewish wedding tradition. The chupah was 10-feet high, and made of pipe and wood.  The defendant provided the plaintiff, a truck driver for a florist, with a six-foot high aluminum ladder, which he used to try and disassemble the chupah.  While plaintiff was standing on the ladder, which was being held by another employee, the ladder slipped and plaintiff fell.

The plaintiff brought an action for violations of the Labor Law.  New York’s Labor Law requires that all owners and general contractures provide safety devices to protect their employees from the inherent risks of working at elevated heights.  The statute expressly provides that safety devices are necessary “in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure.” Labor Law § 240(1).

The court noted that whether something is a “structure” depends on the specific facts of the case, and requires a balancing of numerous factors.  The court found a number of facts relevant to finding that the chupah was a “structure,” including that the chupah  “consisted of various interconnected pipes… secured to steel metal bases.… “  The court also found it significant that the assembly and disassembly of the chupah required a ladder, tools and “an experienced worker more than a few minutes to complete.”  Finally, the court stressed that its decision should not be interpreted as a finding that every chupah is a “structure” under the Labor Law.

Thanks to Steve Kaye for his contribution to this post.  If you would like more information please write to mbono@wcmlaw.com