Multiple Issues of Fact Prohibit Summary Judgment for All Parties

On rare occasions involving the Labor Law, sometimes no one wins.  In a recent decision, multiple questions of fact on both sides of the argument prohibited the parties from emerging victorious on summary judgment, sending the matter to the jury. 

In Rodriguez v. Fawn E. Fourth St., LLC, 2024 NY Slip Op 00690 (1st Dep’t 2024), the First Department modified a decision from Supreme Court, New York County which granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s complaint; and denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to his Labor Law § 240(1) claim.

Plaintiff alleges he sustained injuries when he and his co-workers were replacing a 6-foot tall, 30-inch diameter water heater, weighing approximately 700 pounds.  Facts in the decision as to the mechanism of the subject accident are scarce, but defendant argued that the water heater’s breakdown was routine maintenance, and not a “repair” within the meaning of Labor Law § 240(1).  The First Department found this unavailing, as defendant only offered conclusory statements as to the cause of the water heater’s breakdown and did not submit specific proof that the water heater’s failure was due to normal wear and tear of particular parts, or of the system itself. 

Triable issues of fact also existed as to whether, in consideration of the weight of the water heater as it was strapped to a hand truck, such weight created a hazardous gravitational force that devices enumerated in Labor Law § 240(1) were meant to protect, prohibiting the granting of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. 

As a result, the First Department modified the lower court’s decision, denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment and upholding the denial of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. 

The Rodriguez decision can be found here.

For additional questions, please contact Michael J. Shields, Esq. and/or Philip D. Priore, Esq.

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