Too Small Ladder Precludes Parties from Reaching Summary Judgment

In a recent decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed a lower Court order that denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s causes of action alleging common-law negligence and violations of Labor Law §§ 200 and 240(1). 

In Liu v. Yung, et al. (2024 NY Slip OP 01170), plaintiff alleged that he fell from a ladder while working at the one-family home of the defendants.  According to plaintiff, one of the defendants positioned an unsecured A-frame ladder on an exterior deck and instructed the plaintiff to climb it in order to address an apparent leak in a second-floor bathroom.  Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the ladder provided was too short to perform the repair work, resulting in the subject incident. 

Defendants argued that plaintiff’s activity was not performed as part of a larger renovation project, and therefore, falls outside of the reach of Labor Law § 240(1).  The Second Department disagreed, indicating that whether a particular activity falls within § 240(1) must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the context of the work, and that defendants in this matter failed to submit sufficient evidence that the work was not performed as part of a larger renovation project.

Defendants also argued they were exempt from liability under Labor Law § 240(1) due to the homeowners’ exception, unless they directed or controlled the work being performed.  The Second Department held that the defendants did not submit sufficient evidence that the homeowner defendant did not direct or control the work performed by plaintiff when he was instructed to use the ladder to perform the subject repair work. 

As to the Supreme Court, Kings County decision that denied the branch of defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the causes of action alleging common-law negligence and a violation of Labor Law § 200, the Second Department agreed with the lower Court.  The Second Department reasoned that where plaintiff’s claims implicate the means and methods of the work, defendants were required to show they did not have the authority to supervise or control the performance of plaintiff’s work.  Defendants failed to make this prima facie showing, and the lower Court therefore properly denied that portion of defendants’ motion. 

The Liu decision can be found here.

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

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