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Construction Slip and Fall While Carrying Beam Not Subject Matter of Labor Law § 240(1)

October 9, 2013 • Posted By Tara Bhupathi • Complex Litigation, Construction Claims

In Rajkumar v. Markham Gardens LP, 2013 NY Slip Op 51581 (NY: Supreme Court 2013), Justice Jack Battaglia ruled that Labor Law § 240(1) does not apply where the imputus of an object falling at a construction site was not a direct consequence of gravity operating on the object.  For example, in Rajkumar, plaintiff alleged that while he was helping to erect a balcony, he slipped and fell, and subsequently, the 200 pound beam he was holding fell on top of him.  Immediately prior to the accident, plaintiff was holding the subject beam inches above his shoulders and standing on construction debris.  Judge Battaglia of Kings County Supreme Court held that, because the beam fell as a result of plaintiff slipping, the accident was not within the narrow confines of the strict liability statute. 

The extraordinary protections of § 240(1) require that the harm claimed is a harm which flowed directly from the application of the force of gravity to an object or person.  Accordingly, construction accidents involving slipping or tripping from non-elevator surfaces, and the subsequent dropping of materials, should not trigger the strict liability statute. 

The Court also noted that the “same level rule” precluded liability because plaintiff was holding the beam mere inches above his shoulder.  This small height difference was held insufficient to trigger § 240(1).