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Santiago v. Fred-Doug 117

NEW YORK SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT


December 17, 2009

NELSON SANTIAGO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
FRED-DOUG 117, L.L.C., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS. [AND A THIRD-PARTY ACTION]

Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Jane S. Solomon, J.), entered on or about March 31, 2009, which, to the extent appealed from as limited by the brief, granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability under Labor Law § 240(1) and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the Labor Law § 240(1) cause of action, unanimously modified, on the law, to deny plaintiff's motion, and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Gonzalez, P.J., Saxe, McGuire, Acosta, RomÁn, JJ.

115904/06, 590483/07

Labor Law § 240(1) imposes a duty to protect workers engaged in "the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of a building or structure." While "repair" of a broken or malfunctioning item is among the statute's enumerated activities, "routine maintenance" to prevent malfunction is not covered activity (Esposito v New York City Indus. Dev. Agency, 1 NY3d 526, 528 [2003]; see Craft v Clark Trading Corp., 257 AD2d 886, 887 [1999]). Plaintiff testified that he went to the Rite Aid pharmacy in response to a service call that the air conditioning was broken. The Rite Aid manager confirmed that he had called Concept, plaintiff's employer, to have the air conditioning fixed because the front of the store was excessively hot. However, the Concept service manager testified that he had dispatched plaintiff to the Rite Aid that day to complete maintenance work begun three days earlier. A Concept work order and invoice also indicate that plaintiff was doing maintenance work, changing filters and belts, and cleaning coils on three HVAC units to prevent future problems. These discordant versions of the facts preclude a determination, as a matter of law, as to whether plaintiff was doing covered repair work or non-actionable routine maintenance on the date of his accident.

Assuming a fact-finder determines that plaintiff was involved in covered repair work, the evidence raises the further issue of whether plaintiff's own actions were the sole proximate cause of his injuries (see Blake v Neighborhood Hous. Servs. Of N.Y. City, 1 NY3d 280, 290 [2003]; Lovall v Graves Bros., Inc., 63 AD3d 1528, 1530 [2009]; Lopez v Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc., 26 AD3d 192 [2006]; Meade v Rock McGraw, Inc., 307 AD2d 156 [2003]). Plaintiff testified that he was standing on an open eight-foot A-frame ladder placed sideways and secured about a foot from an open door to the Rite Aid manager's office, and that the store manager bumped the ladder as he squeezed past plaintiff to exit the office. Plaintiff stated that he fell off the ladder when it was bumped a second time, and after falling, he saw that the manager had re-entered his office. In contrast, the store manager testified that he saw plaintiff lean a closed ladder against the wall, unsecured, that he warned plaintiff that this was not safe, and that plaintiff replied that he knew what he was doing. He also testified that while the ladder blocked the doorway to his office, there was enough space for him to get through. This testimony raises the factual issue of whether plaintiff misused an otherwise adequate ladder by leaning it, unsecured, against the wall, after which the ladder slipped as he was moving on top of it.

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

20091217

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