Labor Law 240: Smith v. Burns (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Broome Co.)

June 21, 2017

by Richard C. Brister, Esq.


In Smith, plaintiff was allegedly injured in the course of his employment at a project to build a two-level deck at a new restaurant being constructed in Binghamton, New York.  On the accident date, plaintiff was allegedly using an 8’ stepladder to install a support post under the deck when the ladder collapsed, causing plaintiff to fall and sustain injuries.


Plaintiff’s motion alleged he was provided the 8’ stepladder and that his accident was caused by the defective condition of the ladder and the way it was set up under the deck.  In opposition, defendants submitted evidence that plaintiff was actually provided a 12’ stepladder that had on three prior occasions been successfully secured under the deck for similar work, and that plaintiff actually accessed that 12’ stepladder just prior to the accident, but that plaintiff ultimately disregarded the 12’ ladder and retrieved the 8’ ladder to use instead.  Defendants argued that plaintiff’s motion ignored the the provision and condition of the 12’ ladder, and that the court must take defendants’ evidence as true and indulge all reasonable inferences in their favor as non-movants.


On April 10, 2017, the Court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment under Labor Law section 240.  The Court found issues of fact as to (1) which ladder the plaintiff was given to use, and (2) whether plaintiff’s conduct (i.e., in retrieving the unsafe 8’ ladder for his use where a safe 12’ ladder had been immediately available to him) was the sole proximate cause of the accident.  The Court also denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on his claims for common law negligence and for violation of Labor Law sections 241(6) and 200, and denied plaintiff’s wife’s derivative claim.