Contractors, Owners and Agents: Bring Your “A-game” When You Provide an A-frame.

Labor Law §240(1) provides protection to workers by (among other things) obligating contractors, owners and agents, to provide ladders (among other devices) “constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection.” All too often, a worker brings suit alleging a fall from an allegedly faulty A-frame ladder resulting in injuries.

In Morato-Rodriguez v. Riva Construction Group, Inc., 2014 NY Slip Op 01408 (1st Dept. 2014), the Appellate Division dealt with this very situation: an alleged injury caused by an alleged defective A-frame ladder. The plaintiff in Morato-Rodriguez claimed that the defendants’ site foreman directed him to use the only ladder on the floor, an open A-frame ladder “not that far” from the site foreman’s toolbox. While plaintiff was standing on the ladder, it became unstable, wobbled, and fell, causing him to fall and be injured.

The site foreman, in turn, testified that he directed plaintiff not to use certain ladders that were placed by the garbage bins, and, instead, to use one of at least two “A-frame sturdy ladders” available on the floor. According to the foreman, instead of following his directions, the plaintiff used a ladder that he was specifically instructed not to use.

The First Department found an issue of material fact and reversed the Bronx County Supreme Court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiff. However, it is very likely the First Department would have ruled in defendants’ favor on summary judgment under Labor Law §240(1) had the site foreman, or anyone else for that matter, brought his site safety “A-game” and made sure that any defective ladder was removed from the site ASAP to preclude any chance of a laborer using it and being subjected to a fall and injury. Remember, when it comes to construction site safety, bring your “A-game” for any A-frame.

Special thanks to Bryan Lipsky for his contributions to this post. For more information, please contact Dennis Wade at dwade@wcmlaw.com.