Plaintiff Loosens Jack Holding Beam, Gravity Ensues

Inevitably, when you read about the Labor Law in New York, you’re going to encounter other laws.  Here, a recent decision by the First Department reacquaints us with one of the oldest laws around: gravity. 

In Bartley v. 76 Eleventh Ave. Prop. Owner, LLC, 2024 NY Slip Op 02087, Plaintiff alleged that he was injured while working as an employee of a subcontractor at a construction site owned by the defendant owner and defendant general contractor.  Plaintiff testified that he was assigned to strip wooden forms from overhead concrete beams as part of the construction of a tower, and that the forms were supported by jacks that were placed every few feet.  While he was underneath the forms stabilizing a loosened jack, the beam, wooden ribs, and another jack fell onto his head and shoulder.

The Supreme Court, New York County granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to his Labor Law § 240(1) claim, holding that the work plaintiff performed involved a load that required securing, and in opposition, the defendants did not demonstrate that the presence of the jacks would have rendered the removal of the forms an impossibility.

The First Department affirmed and noted in its decision that the record established that the furnished jacks were safety devices intended to shield plaintiff from gravity-related hazards, and that the accident was caused by the inadequacy of the jacks supporting the forms. 

Also notable in the First Department’s decision is the contention by defendants that plaintiff’s loosening and lowering of the jacks as part of the stripping process led to the accident.  This conduct is ultimately contributory negligence and does not defeat plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on liability.  Lastly, discrepancies between plaintiff’s sworn testimony and an incident report form filled out by plaintiff, as well as contentions that the incident may not have occurred at all, were held to be insufficient to create an issue of fact and deemed speculative, respectively.  It remained undisputed that plaintiff was injured when the beam and ribs slipped off the jacks and fell.

The Bartley decision can be found here.

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