Senior Associate Michael Kivort wins Summary Judgment

This New York County-venued Labor Law action stems from a back injury sustained by a structural steel installer while working on a job in a large electrical room at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal C in 2015.  We represented the general contractor, V.R.H. Construction Corp., and the terminal’s lessee, Delta Airlines.  Plaintiff worked for non-party Inter-Metal Fabricators building a new, lower ceiling in the electrical room and then installing additional steel beams in the confined and obstructed space in between the new, lower ceiling and the original ceiling to provide additional support to the original ceiling.  To do this, Plaintiff and his foreman had to lift the beams into the space by hand and maneuver them into place by hand around obstructions as well.  It was while he was doing the latter that he allegedly injured his back.

Plaintiff named Delta Airlines, the terminal building’s lessee, and V.R.H. Construction Corp., the project’s general contractor, as defendants, and sued both under Labor Law sections 240(1), 241(6), and 200.  He also made a general negligence claim.  Absent from the facts, however, was any claim that Plaintiff himself fell from a height or that anything fell on Plaintiff.  Rather, his claim centered on the obstructions in the workspace that prevented him from being able to use a hoisting device.

We moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff’s claims at the close of discovery.  As to Plaintiff’s Labor Law Section 240(1) claims, we argued that a Plaintiff who sustains an injury merely because he lifted a heavy object cannot sustain a claim under that Section, based on case law from other Appellate Departments.  There is no case law on that issue from the First Department, although certain trial level courts within the First Department have followed the other Appellate Departments on that point.  In opposition, Plaintiff withdrew his Labor Law Section 200 and 241(6) claims, as well as his general negligence claim, to focus on his Section 240(1) claim.  In an attempt to sustain his Labor Law Section 240(1) claim Plaintiff argued, in a novel approach not supported by any New York case law, that Defendants should have reconfigured the work site to allow for the use of a hoisting device.

Following oral argument on October 1, 2020, Justice Shlomo Hagler of the Supreme Court, New York County, granted our Summary Judgment Motion, dismissing Plaintiff’s novel argument as unsustainable under New York law and finding that sustaining an injury merely by lifting a heavy weight, as Plaintiff alleged, is insufficient to sustain a Labor Law Section 240(1) claim, thereby granting Defendants’ motion and dismissing Plaintiffs’ claim in full.