In Appellate Reversal, Construction Manager Not Liable for Accident Under NYS Labor Law April 24, 2013

In McLaren v. Turner Construction Co., the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the trial court’s denial of Turner Construction’s summary-judgment motion and dismissed the complaint and all cross-claims against it. In doing so, the Appellate Division agreed with Turner’s arguments that it was the “typical” construction manager that is generally not liable under the Labor Law and that it was not negligent in the happening of the incident. Brendan T. Fitzpatrick, a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Appellate Practice Group, represented Turner Construction on the appeal.

The facts in McLaren involved a slip-and-fall on snow and ice at a construction site. In support of its motion, Turner relied upon its contract with the Rondout Valley Central School District and the School District’s agreement hiring Mastercraft Masonry as the general contractor. The School District-Turner contract specifically provided that Turner had no authority to control the means and methods of the work or safety at the site. These responsibilities were vested with the contractors, and Mastercraft was charged with the duty to remove snow. Deposition testimony also showed that Turner exercised no supervisory authority over the work and that Mastercraft was the only entity that was responsible for snow removal and to ensure that pathways were cleared and sanded for workers. The plaintiff worked for the project’s plumbing prime contractor.

In opposing Turner’s motion, the plaintiff and Mastercraft argued that questions existed as to whether Turner played an active role in snow-removal activities. The Second Department agreed with Turner’s arguments that the contracts and deposition testimonies proved that it was not vested with any authority akin to that of a general contractor and that it had no supervisory authority over the work. In reaching its conclusion, the Second Department relied heavily upon its prior decision in Rodriguez v. JMB Architecture, LLC, which we placed particular reliance upon in our appellate briefs. In the end, the Appellate Division agreed with our arguments and dismissed the plaintiff's complaint and Mastercraft’s cross-claims against Turner.

Read the decision here: