Thomas M. Bona, P.C.

Attorneys At Law

Bronx Supreme Court: Summary Judgment Granted On Negligence And Labor Law Claim


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 from the Bronx Supreme Court granting summary judgment.


Although most are familiar with Labor Law Section 240(1) and Labor Law Section 241(6), there is another Labor Law section which is also used in many situations. Labor Law Section 200 codifies the common law duty of an owner or general contractor to provide a safe worksite. In order to prevail a plaintiff must show that the defendant supervised and controlled the plaintiff’s work or had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged unsafe condition in an area over which it had supervision or control or created the unsafe condition.


A recent case in which we were awarded summary judgment for a defendant we represented shows the interaction of negligence and Labor Law Section 200. In Rodriguez v. Heritage Hills Society, Ltd., the plaintiff was employed as a fire sprinkler fitter for Hudson Valley Fire Protection ("Hudson Valley") a non-party. He was working in the administration building of Heritage Hills Society ("Heritage Hills") and fell through a recessed trap door located in the floor of a hallway closet causing him to fall approximately 4 feet into a crawl space below. Plaintiff sustained injuries and thereafter sued the owner, Heritage Hills and the general contractor alleging that his injuries were caused by their negligence and violations of Labor Law Section 200, Section 241(1) and 241(6). Heritage Hills thereafter moved for summary judgment on the common law negligence and Labor Law Section 200 claims as well as moved for defense and indemnification pursuant to its cross-claims against the co-defendant general contractor. Heritage Hills argued that it had no supervisory control over the means and methods of plaintiff’s work. Plaintiff and the general contractor opposed Heritage Hills’ motion for summary judgment. The general contractor contended that there was no work being performed in the closet where the incident occurred, and that there was no work being performed in that entire portion of the building and that the owner was supposed to take measures to lock the doors of that wing.


The general contractor further argued that there was an issue of fact as to whether Heritage Hills was free from negligence as it had acknowledged its responsibility to ensure that the door to the subject location was locked during construction hours. Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment on Labor Law Section 240(1) and 241(6) and contended that inadequate lighting caused and/or contributed to the accident and that Heritage Hills was negligent in failing to ensure that there was sufficient lighting inside the closet.


In reply, Heritage Hills argued that the evidence showed that the plaintiff mistakenly performed his job by checking for the sprinkler in a closet where no renovation work was to be performed, and that this did not create an issue of fact. Heritage Hills further argued that access to the subject closet was necessary for the HVAC workers to reach equipment inside the crawl space and that the general contractor testified that he had access to the keys and that he was responsible for allowing workers into the job site.


The Supreme Court granted Heritage Hills’ motion for summary judgment, dismissed the complaint and awarded summary judgment on its cross-claims for its defense and indemnification. The Supreme Court found that Heritage Hills had demonstrated as a matter of law that it did not supervise and/or exercise control over the means and methods over the plaintiff’s work and therefore could not be held liable under Labor Law Section 200. The court found that the general contractor’s principal testified that the supervision of contractors was "100%" his job and the owner had no role in that.


The Court also found that regard to the common law negligence claim that there was no evidence to raise an issue of fact that the trap door was caused to remain in an upright position due to a defect or that Heritage Hills should have known of any dangerous condition. The evidence showed that security measures were taken for reasons unrelated to the trap door inspection with access to the closet being locked.


The Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment on Labor Law Section 240 and Section 241 as untimely and without any showing of good cause for its lateness.


If there is a Labor Law Section 200 claim by carefully marshalling the evidence, the proof that is needed to defeat a negligence claim can also be used to defeat the Labor Law Section 200 claim.


Should you have any questions, please call.

Thomas M. Bona