In Ciechorski v. City of New York, the Appellate Division recently distinguished between “usual and ordinary” dangers of a construction site versus “the extraordinary elevation risks envisioned by the Labor Law Section 240(1).” The Court also addressed the distinction between defendants who actually determine the means and methods of the work versus those who merely exercise general oversight over the performance of the work.
Plaintiff claimed he suffered pain allegedly caused by repeatedly being handed heavy buckets filled with epoxy from workers at a higher level and then transporting the buckets by hand on his own level. Plaintiff claimed he was required to catch buckets in mid-air, after they were dropped by workers standing on a barge about five or six feet above the float stage where he was standing, and this took place over the course of several weeks.
In granting summary judgment in favor of the City of New York, dismissing plaintiff’s complaint, the Appellate Division determined that plaintiff’s claims were unsupported by the record, even when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. The Court noted that plaintiff testified that the barge workers leaned, bent down, or kneeled, as necessary, to hand the buckets to plaintiff, allowing him to grasp each bucket before it was released. As such, the Court determined that the type of activity plaintiff described and complained about was more in line with the usual and ordinary dangers of a construction site as opposed to the extraordinary elevation risks encompassed by the Labor Law.
Furthermore, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s Labor Law Section 200 claim and his common law negligence claims as against defendant Hudson Meridian Construction Group, LLC because that defendant did not determine the means and methods of the work, but rather, exercised only general oversight over the performance of the work and site safety conditions, which is insufficient to trigger liability. In contrast, the means and methods of the work were determined solely by plaintiff’s employer, a non-party to the case.
Thanks to Sara Matschke for her contribution to this post and please write to Mike Bono with any questions.