Due to the nature of the Labor Law in New York, specifically section 240(1), notoriously known as “The Scaffold Law”, summary judgment motions resulting in a question of fact are a rare and mysterious jewel in a sea of jurisprudence finding in favor of plaintiffs. 

However, in a recent decision, Anderson v. Toll House, LLC, 2023 NY Slip OP 34186(U) (Sup. Ct. Kings Cty. 2023), the Supreme Court, Kings County found a question of fact as to whether the weight of sheetrock panels would generate sufficient force to be a gravity-related danger, and therefore qualifying for the extraordinary protections of Labor Law § 240(1). 

Plaintiff alleges he was injured while delivering sheetrock to a construction site when a temporary floor collapsed causing sheetrock, approximately ten sheets of 12 feet by 4 feet weighing 45 pounds each, to fall on top of him.  The sheetrock was loaded on, but not secured to, an A-frame dolly. 

It is worth noting that the plaintiff was employed with an employment agency and had been hired by the entity delivering the sheetrock as a temporary laborer to deliver construction materials. 

In its decision, the Court held, inter alia:

  1. Plaintiff was delivering sheetrock to a construction site for ongoing construction and therefore was a proper Labor Law plaintiff, as opposed to sheetrock being stockpiled for future use, which would not have afforded plaintiff Labor Law protections.
  2. The defendant supplier/deliverer of the subject sheetrock established it was not responsible for the condition of the temporary flooring at the site and, that based thereon, it was not a proper Labor Law defendant. The Court disagreed, holding that defendant supplier/deliverer “had the authority to supervise and control” the sheetrock delivery and it not being secured to the dolly, making it a proper Labor law defendant for the purpose of §§ 241(6) and 240(1).[1]
  3. As to plaintiff’s Labor Law § 200 claim, the Court held that whether defendant was negligent in failing to secure the sheetrock panels to the A-frame dolly was a question of fact to be determined by a jury.

The Court then turned to the defendants’ main argument pertaining to § 240(1), that sheetrock falling off a dolly on the same level as plaintiff is not an elevation-related risk contemplated by the statute.  In its decision regarding plaintiff’s Labor Law § 240(1) claim, the Supreme Court, Kings County held that there are relevant questions of fact as to whether the weight of the sheetrock panels together with the height from which they fell would generate sufficient force to be a gravity related danger and whether the sheetrock panels should have been secured to the A-frame dolly. Marrero v. 2075 Holding Co. LLC, 106 A.D.3d 408 (1st Dep’t 2013) and McCallister v. 200 Park LP, 92 A.D.3d 927 (2d Dep’t 2012). 

Notably, the Marrero and McCallister cases focused on whether elevation differentials are considered di minimis when the weight of the object being hoisted or to be secured can generate an extreme amount of force even though it only traveled a short distance. 

The Supreme Court, Kings County decision in Anderson v. Toll House has been appealed by defendants. 

The Anderson decision can be found here.

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

This article was prepared by McCormick & Priore, P.C. to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers.  This publication is in no way intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of McCormick & Priore, P.C.

[1] While not necessary to establish statutory liability for owners and general contractors, the question of supervision and control is considered when holding subcontractors liable under Labor Law § 240(1).