Summary Judgment For Plaintiff, Who Fell From Ladder, Under Labor Law § 240(1)

Yesterday the Appellate Division, in Cuentas v. Sephora USA, affirmed a lower court ruling granting summary judgment to a construction worker plaintiff on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim.  While working on a 6-foot tall, A-frame ladder (example pictured), plaintiff lost his balance and fell, sustaining injuries.

The standards for evaluating a Labor Law § 240(1) claim are well-settled:

The single decisive question is whether plaintiff’s injuries were the direct consequence of a failure to provide adequate protection against a risk arising from a physically significant elevation differential. … [F]ailure to properly secure a ladder to insure that it remains steady and erect while being used constitutes a violation of Labor Law § 240(1).

Here, “Plaintiff’s testimony that the ladder he was using was both unsteady as he was ascending it and too short to enable him to reach the window he was cleaning establishes prima facie that defendants failed to provide him with an adequate safety device under Labor Law § 240(1) and that their failure proximately caused his injuries.”

The court rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s alleged negligence (for standing on top of the ladder) relieved them of liability:  “[B]ecause plaintiff has established that no adequate safety device was provided, his own [n]egligence, if any … is of no consequence”.   This distinguishes this case from those in which “an adequate ladder was provided and there are issues of fact as to whether the accident occurred solely because of the plaintiff’s loss of balance while using the ladder”.

Finally, “since plaintiff’s use of the ladder was consistent with his employer’s instructions, any negligence on his part cannot be deemed to be the sole proximate cause” of his injuries.

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