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Naughty Worker Has No Scaffold Claim

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

As recently reported in Matthew Lerner’s excellent New York Civil Law blog, the New York Court of Appeals recently decided that a worker who fails to use safety devices provided to him by his employer cannot prevail in a Labor Law ¬ß240(1) claim (otherwise known as the Scaffold Law). Cahill v. Triboroough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. The “Scaffold Law” allows the injured worker to sue a general contractor or property owner, in addition to collecting workers compensation from the employer. Jury awards in scaffold cases can be very high.
Using the term “recalcitrant worker” to describe the employee in this case, the Court found that the key question is whether the employee’s own conduct was the proximate cause of his injury.
I would not describe this as a pro-worker decision. However, the general public policy that a worker must avail himself of safety devices provided to him prior to instituting a Labor Law §240 claim does have inherent logic. As lawyers for construction workers, we continue to see the Courts narrowing the protections found in Labor Law §240. The bottom line Рif you are a construction worker on a scaffold, use your safety equipment or you may lose your right to sue.

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