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Appellate Court Dismisses Labor-Law Violation Claims against Chemical Plant

Case Study

Appellate Court Dismisses Labor-Law Violation Claims against Chemical Plant

September 8, 2023
Paul D. McCormick

Claims brought against a chemical manufacturing plant by an injured contractor have been dismissed by the state’s Appellate Division, Fourth Department, which agreed with arguments made by Goldberg Segalla that the plaintiff’s work fell outside the scope of New York Labor Law.

The case stems from injuries suffered by the plaintiff when he fell from a ladder after an arc flash while performing electrical work at a substation owned by the manufacturer. The contractor alleged a plant employee failed to de-energize the substation equipment and misinformed the plaintiff’s foreman he had done so.

The contractor and his wife, who is also named as a plaintiff in the suit, claimed the plant was liable for both his injuries and damages based on alleged violations to sections 240 and 241 of New York State Labor Law. The plaintiffs also alleged a dangerous working condition was present at the substation in violation of common law negligence principles and section 200 of the state’s Labor Law.

Though no value was established, plaintiffs sought compensation for past and future pain and suffering, as well as past and future economic damages caused by the injuries.

Paul D. McCormick, a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Global Insurance Services and Civil Litigation and Trial practice groups, represented the plant. In waging his defense, Paul argued the work performed by the plaintiff at the time of the accident was routine maintenance, which is not a protected activity under Sec. 240 of the state’s Labor Law. Paul also argued the maintenance work was not performed in context of construction, demolition or excavation to which Sec. 241 of the state’s Labor Law pertains.

As for the plaintiffs’ claims of a dangerous working condition, Paul maintained the contractor’s failure to test the equipment constituted an intervening act that superseded the plant’s conduct and broke any casual connection between the plant’s conduct and the subsequent accident.

The Fourth Department dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims pertaining to sections 240 and 241 of state Labor Law. However, it stopped short of dismissing the suit in its entirety, holding that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their Labor Law 200 claim, and that there is a question of fact as to whether the injured contractor’s conduct represented an intervening superseding cause of the accident, thereby relieving the plant of liability for his injuries and damages.

That issue is scheduled to go to trial in January 2024.