New York City, New York (New York Injury News) — The recent crane collapse during a building construction in New York, which caused seven deaths, is a grim reminder of the dangers inherent in construction work. There have been many other fatalities this year in New York involving construction related activities including workers killed in falls from buildings. Some building owners and contractors contribute to these catastrophes by ignoring safety codes enacted to protect the lives of those engaged in this dangerous work.
When an accident does happen these laws can help workers in another way. The violations of these safety codes gives injured workers, or their estate in the event of death, a right to sue the owner or general contractor to collect money damages even if the violation results from another subcontractor’s negligence. In other words, these laws put the burden on owners, for whose economic benefit the work is presumably being done, and the general contractor who is responsible for the progress of the work, to insure that the subcontractors doing the work adhere to all safety codes. If they do not undertake this obligation they are answerable in money damages.
In the event of height related activities these provisions mandate even more stringent requirements to protect workers and also provide that in such case (for example falls from buildings, bridges, dropped objects causing injuries) that the owner or general contractor is strictly liable to the worker in any lawsuit which seeks compensation for injuries or wrongful death. That means that they can’t blame the worker for a subcontractor’s disregard of a safety provision.
A case that a leading NYC personal injury law firm handled and settled for $3.75 million is a good example of how this law works. The client was a painter employed by a painting contractor hired by the City of New York to paint one of the East River bridges after it had undergone asbestos removal. To paint the lower portion of the bridge our client was put in a self controlled “man lift” (it is a small bucket which can be extended upwards with a small wheel base at the bottom) which lifted him to a height of 25 feet so that he could reach the bridge.
However the City of New York, which had an inspector at the site regularly, either failed to notice or if he did disregard it, that the area under the bridge where the man lift would be moving while our client was painting was unpaved and had ditches and gullies. With that kind of a surface there was no way to stabilize the lift while he was painting or to insure that it wouldn’t tip over if he was moving it to another location (he had a control panel in the “bucket” from which he was able to paint).
Unfortunately the inevitable happened; the man lift tipped over while the client was moving it over this area hurling him to the ground. He sustained horrendous orthopedic injuries which required multiple surgeries and resulted in severe permanent disabilities which have prevented him from returning to work.
Based on the provisions of the New York labor law which hold the owner and contractor (in this case the City of New York wore both hats) liable for a height related accident, the law firm obtained a finding from the judge even before they started a trial that the City of New York was responsible for the accident. All that was left for a jury to do was assess the amount of money damages the client was due. As the trial drew closer the defendant agreed to settle the case no doubt realizing that they had no defense to plaintiff’s claim.