New York Court Finds Iron Worker Who Fell Thirty Feet at Construction Site to Be Sole Proximate Cause of His Accident

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An iron worker who was loading steel from one floor of a building to another tripped and fell 30 feet. After sustaining multiple injuries, he sued for $2 million, claiming multiple violations of New York's Labor Code. TELS attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the iron worker was the sole proximate cause of his accident and, ultimately, his injuries. The Supreme Court in Westchester County agreed, dismissing the multi-million dollar claim in its entirety.

Traub Eglin Lieberman Straus LLP (TELS) is pleased to announce that the Supreme Court in Westchester County granted TELS motion for summary judgment in a recent Labor Law case, finding that an injured iron worker who fell at a construction jobsite was the sole proximate cause of his own accident. Plaintiff’s settlement demand prior to the decision was $2 million.

In Niedzinski v. Losco Group, Inc., et al., the Plaintiff was an iron worker who was directed by his foreman to help guide the delivery of steel to the second floor of a building under construction. Instead of using an available extension ladder to reach the second floor, the Plaintiff decided to take a shortcut and began walking atop a rebar studded wall. The wall was only 8-10 inches wide, and had pieces of rebar sticking out approximately every 12 inches. While taking his shortcut, the Plaintiff tripped on the rebar, falling approximately 30 feet to the ground below. The Plaintiff claimed to have suffered significant injuries requiring surgery.

The Plaintiff then filed suit against the general contractor. The general contractor impleaded plaintiff’s employer, who in turn impleaded TELS’ client who had constructed the wall. In his lawsuit, the Plaintiff alleged violations of Labor Law §§ 240(1), 241(6) and 200. During a re-deposition of the plaintiff after TELS’ client was added to the case, the Plaintiff testified that he decided to forego the extension ladder and use his shortcut because it would have taken too much time to go up and down the ladder, and reposition same for each delivery of steel.

TELS attorneys Mario Castellitto and Lisa Black defended the case. Relying on the evidence of other alternative safety devices developed by TELS, all of the Defendants moved to have the case dismissed in its entirety. In the motion for summary judgment, all parties argued that the Plaintiff could have used the extension ladder to safely access the second floor. Plaintiff alone decided to take the risky shortcut, and was therefore responsible for his own accident.

The Court agreed with TELS' arguments, finding that the Plaintiff alone chose to cross the rebar studded wall in a "tightrope walk fashion rather than use an available extension ladder." The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim in its entirety, and determined that the Plaintiff was indeed the sole proximate cause of the accident.

The Niedzinski decision is encouraging in that it demonstrates that trial courts are taking a closer look at Labor Law cases in light of the recent decisions by the Court of Appeals. It appears the Courts are not automatically finding a violation simply because an injured worker fell from a height. Despite this trend, defendants must continue to challenge the application of the Labor Law whenever appropriate.

The case involved was Niedzinski v. Losco Group, Inc., et al. (Supreme Court of the State of New York, Westchester County, Index Number 6645/03).

TELS congratulates Mr. Castellitto and Ms. Black for their success in defending this complex Labor Law case. For more information on Mr. Castellitto, a partner with TELS, please visit:

http://www.tels.com/profiles/mariocastellitto/

And to learn more about Ms. Black, an associate in the law firm's New York office, please review her C.V. online at:

http://www.tels.com/profiles/lisablack/

About TELS

Traub Eglin Lieberman Straus LLP (TELS) has achieved a national reputation for excellence in legal representation. Our philosophy is to provide quality legal representation in an expeditious and efficient manner. Our emphasis on client service, as well as our reputation in the legal community, has served our clients and the firm well. TELS has been recognized by many, including Martindale-Hubbell, for outstanding legal ability and ethical standards. For more information, visit us online at http://www.tels.com.

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Scott Carr
JAVELIN WEB AND MEDIA
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