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Favorable Labor Law 240 defense verdict reversed by Second Department

November 18, 2014 • Posted By Joseph A. French • Trial Practice

John J. Vinasco, ap, v. Intell Times Square Hotel, LLC, Index No. 24399/04 (App. Div., 2nd Dept.).         

Following a trial in Queens and despite plaintiff’s Labor Law 240(1) claims, a jury returned a liability verdict in favor of the defense.  The trial court subsequently denied plaintiff’s CPLR 4401 motion seeking judgment on the liability issue.  On appeal, the Second Department reversed the Lower Court, found for plaintiff on his Labor Law 240(1) claim, and remitted to the trial court for a damages trial.

The court summarized the facts as follows:  “The plaintiff allegedly was injured while removing a gate, which was being held up by a hoist, from the building.  The plaintiff stood on an unsecured ladder and was not wearing a harness.  As the plaintiff pulled at a cable which was around the hoisted gate, the gate fell, striking him and the ladder, and propelling them to the ground”.

The lower court denied plaintiff’s motion for a directed verdict.  The jury found defendants had not failed to provide proper protection to plaintiff.

“In order to grant such a motion the court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant, must conclude that there is no rational process by which the jury could base a finding in favor of the defendant”.  “Here, there was no rational process by which the jury could find that the defendants did not violate Labor Law §240(1).  Upon the evidence presented, the jury could not rationally have concluded that the hoist which was holding the gate was adequate under the statute that the unsecured ladder from which the plaintiff fell afforded him adequate protection, or that the inadequacy of the hoist and ladder was not the proximate cause of the injury”.

No doubt, their decision, and more particularly the jury verdict and counsel’s subsequent efforts to have the verdict reversed, will give pause to any plaintiff’s counsel who thinks she should not move for summary judgment and instead proceed to trial.