The Appellate Division, Second Department recently snatched victory away from the defendants in Castillo v. 62-25 30th Ave. Realty. The Second Department reinstated the plaintiff's Labor Law sec. 240(1) claim after a jury verdict in the defendants' favor.
It is not clear from the facts, but it does not appear that the injured plaintiff was provided with a safety device. The jury was presented with two different versions of how the accident occurred. The plaintiff fell from a height while removing large, heavy metal racks from a wall.
According to the deposition testimony of a coworker and eyewitness, the plaintiff fell from the elevated worksite when the metal rack he was working on suddenly came loose and, after he hit the floor, the metal piece he had been handling fell and hit him across the leg. In contrast, after initially stating at his deposition that he had no recollection of how he got hurt, the plaintiff testified at his deposition that he was standing under the scaffold when a piece of the scaffold fell and hit him in the head.
The Court reasoned that under either version, the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries was a violation of Labor Law sec. 240(1). The Court rejected the argument that the plaintiff's handling of the metal rack caused him to fall. Because it appears that no safety device was provided, and the plaintiff was working at a height, the Court seemed to reason that the mishandling of the device could only have been a contributory factor to his fall (not a viable defense under sec. 240(1)).
Second, the Court held that falling piece of scaffold hitting the plaintiff also constituted a sec. 240(1) violation.