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Rivera v. Home Depot U.S.A, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 28, 2018

DANIEL RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
HOME DEPOT U.S.A. INC., Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
BRYAN'S HOME IMPROVEMENT CORP., Third-Party Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          KATHERINE B. FORREST, United States District Judge.

         On August 22, 2015, Daniel Rivera (“Rivera” or “plaintiff”) fell from a ladder during the course of his employment in Yonkers, New York. This action concerns whether and to what extent either of the contracting entities involved in Rivera's employment-Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. (“Home Depot”) and Bryan's Home Improvement Corp. (“BHIC”)-are liable for his resulting injuries.

         By Memorandum Decision & Order dated February 27, 2018, the Court denied BHIC's motion for summary judgment, concluding that BHIC had failed to demonstrate that Rivera did not suffer a “grave injury” as a matter of law. (ECF No. 69.) Currently before the Court is Rivera's affirmative motion for partial summary judgment filed January 8, 2018. (ECF No. 44.) Rivera argues, in sum, that Home Depot violated New York Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6) by failing to adequately ensure the safety of Rivera's elevated worksite, and is therefore liable for his resulting injuries. (See generally Mem. of Law (“Rivera Mem.”), ECF No. 45.) Home Depot opposed Rivera's motion on February 15, 2018 (ECF No. 61), and Rivera replied on February 17, 2018 (ECF No. 64).

         It is rare for a personal injury plaintiff to prevail on a motion for summary judgment; typically, there are numerous issues of material fact that necessitate trial. The plaintiff in this case, however, has succeeded in demonstrating that no material facts are sufficiently disputed. Accordingly, Rivera's motion must be GRANTED.[1]

         I. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         It is well established that summary judgment may be granted when a movant shows, based on admissible evidence in the record, “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), and the Court must construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in its favor, Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 740 (2d Cir. 2010).

         The statutes at issue here are New York Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6). Section 240(1), referred to by the parties as the “Scaffold Law, ” imposes absolute liability on contractors for failure to adequately protect workers in elevated worksites:

All contractors and owners and their agents . . . in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.

         N.Y. Lab. Law § 240(1) (emphasis added). The “core premise” of § 240(1) is “that a defendant's failure to provide workers with adequate protection from reasonably preventable, gravity-related accidents will result in liability.” Wilinski v. 334 E. 92nd Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 18 N.Y.3d 1, 7 (2011). To prevail on a § 240(1) claim, Plaintiff must demonstrate (1) that defendant failed to adequately secure an elevated worksite within the meaning of the statute, and (2) that failure proximately caused some injury. Id.; see also Rocovich v. Consol. Edison Co., 78 N.Y.2d 509, 513 (1991).

         Section 241(6), which relates to “[a]ll areas in which construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed, ” provides that such areas “shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places.” N.Y. Lab. Law § 241(6) (emphasis added). The statute further provides that “[t]he commissioner may make rules to carry into effect the provisions of this subdivision, ” and that covered entities “shall comply therewith.” Id.

         The New York Court of Appeals has held that § 241(6) thus requires general contractors to “comply with the specific safety rules and regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor.” Ross v. Curtis-Palmer Hydro Electric Co., 81 N.Y.2d 494, 501-02 (1993). To prevail on a § 241(6) claim, plaintiff must demonstrate that defendant breached a “concrete specification[]” of the relevant Industrial Code as opposed to general common-law principles, which are better left to § 200(1) or some other statute. Id. at 503-04. Here, plaintiff has alleged that Home Depot violated 12 NYCRR §§ 23-1.21(b)(4)(iv), 1.13(b)(3), and 1.13(b)(4), all of which are reproduced in relevant part below:

• 12 NYCRR § 23-1.21(b)(4)(iv): “When work is being performed from ladder rungs between six and 10 feet above the ladder footing, a leaning ladder shall be held in place by a person stationed at the foot of such ladder unless the upper end of such ladder is secured against side slip by its position or by mechanical means. When work is being performed from rungs higher than 10 feet above the ladder footing, mechanical means for securing the upper end of such ladder against side slip are required and the lower end of such ladder shall be held in place by a person unless such lower end is tied to a secure anchorage or safety feet are used.”
• 12 NYCRR § 23-1.13(b)(3): “Investigation and Warning. Before work is begun the employer shall ascertain by inquiry or direct observation, or by instruments, whether any part of an electric power circuit, exposed or concealed, is so located that the performance of the work may bring any person, tool or machine into physical or electrical contact therewith. The employer shall post and maintain proper warning signs where such a circuit exists. He shall advise his employees of the locations of such lines, the hazards involved and the protective measures to be taken.”
• 12 NYCRR § 23-1.13(b)(4): “Protection of employees. No employer shall suffer or permit an employee to work in such proximity to any part of an electric power circuit that he may contact such circuit in the course of his work unless the employee is protected against electric shock by deenergizing the circuit and ...

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