Court of Appeals Declines to Apply Labor Law §240(1) to Worker Who Fell From Ladder While Cleaning Product Employer Manufactured By on February 28, 2012

In Dahar v. Holland Ladder & Manufacturing Company, 2012 WL 538245 (February 21, 2012), the plaintiff was injured when he fell from a ladder in a factory while cleaning a product manufactured by his employer.  The Court of Appeals held that his activity was not protected by Labor Law § 240(1).  The product in question was a steel “wall module” made by third party defendant West Metal Works, Inc. at its plant in Cheektowaga, New York. The module was at least seven feet high: West's customer, defendant Bechtel National, Inc., was purchasing it for installation in a nuclear waste treatment plant in Richland, Washington. After the module was fabricated, it had to be cleaned before it was shipped to Washington. Plaintiff, a West employee, was engaged in that task, standing on a ladder provided by West, when, according to plaintiff, the ladder broke and he fell to the ground.

Plaintiff claimed that he was engaged in “cleaning” the wall module, which was a “structure”; that the ladder given him failed to provide “proper protection”; and that Bechtel and the Martins are subject to the liability imposed on “contractors and owners” by Labor Law § 240(1).

The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that the product was a structure within the meaning of the statute.  By its language, the protection of Labor Law § 240(1) is afforded only to workers “employed” in the “erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure”.

The court’s decision is important for plaintiff’s personal injury practitioners because it contains helpful language that should be cited in every motion, brief or legal writing involving a Labor Law § 240(1) claim.  For example, the decision describes the broad protection the statute affords: “As we have long held, it imposes liability even on contractors and owners who had nothing to do with the plaintiff's accident; and where a violation of the statute has caused injury, any fault by the plaintiff contributing to that injury is irrelevant”.

Further, the decision sets forth the history and purpose of the statute: “It is apparent from the text of Labor Law § 240(1), and its history confirms, that its central concern is the dangers that beset workers in the construction industry. The first version of the statute was enacted in 1885, in response “to wide-spread accounts of deaths and injuries in the construction trades” (Blake, 1 N.Y.3d at 285, 771 N.Y.S.2d 484, 803 N.E.2d 757). More recent legislative history explains that the purpose of the statute is to place “ultimate responsibility for safety practices at building construction jobs where such responsibility ... belongs” (1969 N.Y. Legis Ann, at 407).”

Interestingly, the court noted that it seems that every case we have decided involving “cleaning” as used in Labor Law § 240(1), with a single exception, has involved cleaning the windows of a building.  The exception involved the cleaning of a railroad car.

The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims, including for workers injured at construction sites. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas.

To learn more, you can go to our "Injured? What Next" page, and watch our videos.

Related to This

Levine & Slavit, PLLC Logo

Levine & Slavit, PLLC

The law firm of Levine & Slavit, PLLC has served clients in Long Island and the Greater New York City-area since 1957. We are a team of personal injury and wrongful death lawyers who work tirelessly for victims' rights. Our team is licensed and affiliated with the:

  • New York State Bar Association
  • New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners
  • Florida Board of Bar Examiners
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York

Please contact our practice online for a free consultation or call (212) 687-2777 to speak to an attorney today. 

Contact Us Today

Rate, Review & Explore

Social Accounts Sprite
Google map image of our location in 60 E 42nd St Ste 2101 New York, NY

Manhattan Office

60 E 42nd St
Ste 2101
New York, NY 10165

Closed Today

By Appointment Only

Google map image of our location in 350 Willis Ave Ste 100 Long Island, NY

Mineola Office

350 Willis Ave
Ste 100
Long Island, NY 11501

Closed Today

By Appointment Only

(212) 687-2777 Send a message