PLAINTIFF’S LADDER SHIFTED AS HE USED IT TO THROW TRASH INTO A DUMPSTER; THE ALLEGATION HE WAS TOLD NOT TO USE THAT DUMPSTER DID NOT RAISE A SOLE-PROXIMATE-CAUSE OR RECALCITRANT-EMPLOYEE DEFENSE (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on his Labor Law 240(1) cause of action in this ladder-fall case. Plaintiff was using a closed A-frame ladder propped up against a dumpster as threw debris into it when the ladder shifted and he fell. The defendants’ argument that plaintiff was told not to use that dumpster did not raise a sole-proximate-cause or a recalcitrant-employee defense:

“[I]f a statutory violation is a proximate cause of an injury, the plaintiff cannot be solely to blame for it” … . A worker’s injury in an area of the work site where the worker was not supposed to be amounts to comparative negligence, which is not a defense to a Labor Law § 240(1) claim … .

To the extent that defendants argue that plaintiff was recalcitrant in ignoring defendants’ alleged instructions not to use the dumpster, this is insufficient to raise an issue of fact. The recalcitrant worker defense “requires a showing that the injured worker refused to use the safety devises that were provided by the owner or employer. It has no application where, as here, no adequate safety devices were provided” … . An employer’s instructions “to avoid an unsafe practice is not a sufficient substitute for providing a worker with a safety device to allow him to complete his work safely” … . Plaku v 1622 Van Buren LLC, 2021 NY Slip Op 05311, First Dept 10-5-21

 

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