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December 21, 2009


Michael Hutter

Suffice it to say the Court in Runner has tacitly admitted that its Labor Law decisions of the past decade where the Court reached decisions - almost all decided in favor of defendants - ignoring precedent on point were nothing more than ad hoc decisions against plaintiffs on a law the Court simply did not like, which decisions the Court will now not be beholden to. This dangerous tactic of the Court which made the injured construction worker the most reviled plaintiff in NY law made NY Labor Law a mess, with no one knowing what the law is. As proof of that one only needs to read the Second Circuit's decision in Runner where that Court damned with faint praise the Court of Appeals.

Scott Kreppein

In contrast to Michael's comment, I don't believe it's really been that confusing, or that the Court of Appeals has really changed course that much. The Runner case involved the failure to provide a proper hoist or pully. That, in itself, raises red flags that it's probably a Labor Law 240(1) case. A good practitioner, as this one apparently did, will make the case (as well as any applicable 241(6) and common law case), and argue it vigorously.

The fact that he was pulled up, rather than falling down or having an object fall, is not dispositive. The defendants argued that it was, based on the "de minimus height differential" mush that they have gotten the Court to pay lip service to for decades, but there are a litany of decisions saying that Labor Law cases aren't black and white.

The Labor Law is one of those statutes where there is a grey area for borderline cases. It's a broad statute, covering a wide range of factual scenarios. Labor Law cases are also constantly being subject to summary judgment motions, then being appealed. Frequently, Defendants throw out seemingly absurd arguments in the hope that they will get a trial judge or appellate panel to issue a slightly more defense friendly decision.

At least for the last decade, the Court of Appeals has given the statute a fairly consistent treatment. The decisions from the 90's can be a bit confusing, and can generally be read different ways, but are still mostly consistent with the Court's current interpretation. The decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and thus the Court doesn't address factual scenarios that aren't before it.


See Eric Turkewitz's excellent post on this case here

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