First Department Provides Analysis of “Protected Activity” for Labor Law § 240(1) Claims

Any analysis of a Labor Law § 240(1) claim must involve a determination of whether plaintiff is involved in the “erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure.”  This is a largely fact-based analysis, focusing on the scope, regularity and complexity of the work performed by plaintiff at the time of the accident.  The First Department gives us another look at the analysis involved in determining whether work falls within the protective purview of Labor Law § 240(1).

In Melendez v. Truffles II, 2024 NY Slip Op 00810 (1st Dep’t 2024), the First Department modified a lower Court decision that, in part, granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to his Labor Law § 240(1) claims.  At the time of the accident, plaintiff was employed as a union handyman at the defendant’s building.  The defendant instructed plaintiff to perform “emergency” work at a residential apartment in anticipation of a new tenant moving in.  Plaintiff was tasked with repair work that was not part of a punch list or in line with his usual duties and responsibilities for that day.  While shaving down the top of a wooden door for it to close properly, plaintiff alleges that the ladder he was utilizing moved and fell sideways, causing him to fall off the ladder and sustain injuries.    

In its decision, Supreme Court, Bronx County rejected the defendant’s arguments that plaintiff was engaged in routine maintenance, which would not qualify for Labor Law § 240(1) protections, but rather the Court determined plaintiff was engaged in “repair” work within the meaning of the statute.  The lower Court then held that plaintiff met his prima facie burden on his motion for summary judgment with respect to Labor Law § 240(1) because he demonstrated that the defendant failed to properly secure the subject ladder and ensure it remained steady and erect while being used.  As that failure was a proximate cause of the subject incident, the lower Court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment with respect to the Labor Law § 240(1) claim. 

The First Department disagreed with the lower Court, modifying that decision, and denying plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.  In a short opinion, the First Department held that the proof submitted raised questions of fact as to the scope, regularity and complexity of the work which plaintiff was performing, precluding the grant of summary judgment to any party.

The Melendez decision can be found here.

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

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