Thomas M. Bona, P.C.

Attorneys At Law

Appellate Division:

General Supervision By Homeowner

Insufficient To Impose Liability Under Labor Law


As part of our continuing commitment to provide outstanding representation and to serve as an information resource, we wish to inform you of a recent decision on the Labor Law.


Although Labor Law cases often arise in commercial construction settings, Labor Law cases also rise in homeowner situations. A recent case by the Appellate Division, Second Department demonstrates the application of the one and two-family exemption from liability under the Labor Law. Under Labor Laws §240(1) and §241 there is a specific exemption from liability for owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for, but do not direct or control the work.  The purpose of the homeowner’s exemption it to protect those who lack business sophistication, and would not know or anticipate the need to obtain insurance to cover them from absolute liability.


In order to qualify for the homeowner’s exemption, the defendant must demonstrate the work was conducted at the defendant’s one or two-family residence, and that the defendant did not direct or control the work. The phrase “direct or control” has been interpreted by the courts strictly and refers to where the owner supervises the method and manner of the work.


In Rodriguez v. Mendlovits, the defendant husband hired the plaintiff’s non-party employer to remove siding and apply stucco on the rear of the two-family home, which was owned by his defendant wife. The plaintiff allegedly sustained injuries when another worker who had been holding the ladder on which he was standing, let go and plaintiff slipped, causing him to fall. The plaintiff commenced an action against the defendants husband and wife, asserting causes of action under the Labor Laws §200, §240(1) and §241(6). The defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the grounds that they were entitled to the benefit of the homeowner’s exemption under the Labor Law, and that they did not control or supervise the plaintiff’s work or the work site. The plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment and the Supreme Court denied both the motion and the cross-motion. The defendants appealed.


The Appellate Division reversed. The Court found that the defendants had established the wife’s entitlement to the homeowner’s exemption by submitting evidence that she owned the two-family residence on which the work was being performed, and that she did not direct or control the work being done. Since the husband did not own the residence, he was not entitled to the homeowner’s exemption. However, the husband demonstrated that liability could not be imposed upon him as a contractor or agent within the meaning of Labor Laws §240 and §241.


The Appellate Division found that the husband established that he did not possess the requisite authority to supervise or control the work being done. Although he hired the contractor to perform stucco work on the home, he did not instruct them or the plaintiff how or when to do the work, and did not provide them with any tools, materials, or safety equipment. The plaintiff received instructions on when, where and how to perform the work from his employer, and never spoke with the husband who supervised the progress of the work only to the extent of making sure that it was getting done. The Second Department found that general supervision is insufficient to impose liability under the Labor Law.


The Appellate Division also found that the defendants had established their entitlement to summary judgment of Labor Law §200 based upon common-law negligence since the husband and wife had no involvement in the plaintiff’s work and had no general supervision authority over the work, and did not supervise or control the plaintiff’s work.


In any accident involving work being done on a home, it is important to remember the homeowner’s exemption under the Labor Law. Of course, it is just as important to uncover all the facts as to ownership of the home, and who directed or controlled the work to determine if the homeowner’s exemption will apply.


Should you have any questions, please call.

Thomas M. Bona