Court Upholds Dismissal of Labor Law §200 Claim due to “Mere Speculation” Regarding Proximate Laws
March 15, 2019 Posted By Insurance Coverage
Disanto v. Spahiu
N.Y.L.J. – February 22, 2019
Plaintiff slipped and fell from the back of a delivery truck. When he fell, he was making deliveries to a Staten Island construction site. Although he did not recall seeing oily substances at the site before he fell, sand and dirt were observed on the ground throughout the site. He returned to his truck after he made his delivery. He retrieved an invoice from the truck bed. He fell from the truck’s tailgate as he attempted to descend a ladder on the truck. Following his fall, he noticed, oil, dirt and sand on his right boot.
Defendant successfully moved for summary judgment to dismiss the causes of action for common-law negligence and a violation of Labor Law §200.
“Labor Law §200(1) is a codification of the common-law duty of an owner or general contractor to provide workers with a safe place to work”. (Ortega v. Puccia, 57 AD3d 54, 60). Where, as here, the plaintiff alleges the existence of dangerous or defective premises conditions at a work site, “property owners may be held liable for a violation of Labor Law §200 if the owner either created the dangerous condition that caused the accident or had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition that caused the accident” (id. At 61). However, liability may not be imposed where the condition on the property was, as a matter of law, an open and obvious one that was readily observable by the reasonable use of one’s senses, and not inherently dangerous (see Ulrich v. Motor Parkway Props., LLC, 84 AD3d 1221, 1223)”.
However, negligence must be a “proximate cause” of the accident”. Reliance on “mere speculation as to the cause of the accident”, however, is fatal “when there could have been many possible causes”.
Defendant successfully argued that the dirt and sand conditions were “open and obvious” conditions.
Spahiu further demonstrated, prima facie, that the plaintiff was unable to identify the source of the materials on his boot, or the cause of his fall without engaging in speculation.
In affirming the lower Court’s decision, the Court determined that plaintiff’s affidavit was speculative and insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact without more than the speculations, and plaintiff’s claims were properly dismissed.