New York court dismisses injury claim by worker who fell from bucket

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A worker who fell and was injured after standing on an inverted bucket to reach a cable has no one to blame but himself under New York law.

The worker, Angel Morales, did not need to use a bucket, ladder or any other lifting device to reach the cable at the top of a washer/dryer he was installing. To grab the cable, he could have simply pulled the device out as he had done many times when installing similar units, according to a new ruling.

A state appeals court has dismissed his claims of common law negligence and violation of state labor laws against the owners of the Brooklyn apartment complex who hired him to install washing machines / dryer. The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the owners, 50 North First Partners and Bayport Construction Corp.

The court concluded that “[t]The extraordinary protections” of state labor law “extend only to a narrow class of particular hazards and do not encompass all perils that may be tangentially related to the effects of gravity. “.

According to Morales, he was standing on an inverted bucket in order to reach a power cable for a stacked washer/dryer that he had just pushed into the closet before plugging in the power cable. He argued that the power cable lay on top of the dryer and was out of reach, and that the washer/dryer set, although on casters, was difficult to move. So he stood on an overturned bucket to reach the power cable. The bucket slipped under him and he fell and injured himself.

But the defendants established that a ladder – or a bucket – was not necessary for the job. The plaintiff admitted having installed approximately 20 stacked washer/dryers without using a ladder. Each of the units was on wheels and was not fixed in the closet in which they were installed. In order to reach the power cable, Morales could have moved the stacked washer and dryer out of the closet rather than standing on an inverted bucket, but he chose not to.

The defendant owners of the apartment were able to establish that the plaintiff was the “sole immediate cause of his injuries” because he had engaged in conduct which “unnecessarily exposed him to an elevation risk”.

Liability under labor law “will not arise where the record demonstrates that the plaintiff did not need protection from the effects of gravity to perform his job”, the court concluded.

New York

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