The Ever Expanding Labor Law 240 Liability–Building Collapse

We often think of Labor Law 240 as the “scaffold statute.”  New York courts, however, are not satisfied with limiting liability to scaffolding or even “gravity” related situations.  The reach of Labor Law 240 liability seems to expand further with each newly reported 240 case.

In Garcia v. Neighborhood Partnership Hous. Dev. Fund Co., Inc., one plaintiff was injured and another killed when a building partially collapsed. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on their Labor Law 240 claim. The First Department granted the motion, and stated that in a case of a permanent structure collapse, a plaintiff has to show that the collapse was “foreseeable.” The plaintiffs in Garcia established foreseeability based on an architect’s field report that documented unsafe conditions, and a New York City building violation resulting in a stop work order. This case emphasizes the importance of foreseeability and owner/contractor knowledge. Owners and contractors must heed warnings of building instability and hazards. If not, they will likely be on the losing end of a Labor Law 240 motion in the case of a partial building collapse.

Thanks to Lora Gleicher for her contribution to this post.

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