New York Labor Law Section 240(1) - Interpretation

In Nicometi v. The Vineyards of Fredonia, the Court succinctly summarize the governing principles of Labor Law 240(1) as follows: "Pursuant to Labor Law 240(1), owners and contractors engaged 'in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure,' except certain owners of one- and two-family dwellings, must 'furnish or erect... scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person' employed in the performance of such labor. Section 240(1)aims to 'protect workers and to impose the responsibility for safety practices on those best situated to bear that responsibility.' To achieve that goal, the statute 'imposes absolute liability where the failure to provide [proper] protection is a proximate cause of a worker's injury.' Nevertheless, it is settled that 'the extraordinary protections of the statute in the first instance apply only to a narrow class of dangers.' More specifically, Labor Law 240(1) relates only to 'special hazards' presenting 'elevation-related risk[s].' Liability may, therefore, be imposed under the statute only where the 'plaintiffs injuries were the direct consequence of a failure to provide adequate protection against a risk arising from a physically significant elevation differential.' Consequently, the protections of Labor Law 240(1) 'do not encompass any and all perils that may be connected in some tangential way with the effects of gravity.' 'Rather, liability [remains] contingent upon the existence of a hazard contemplated in section 240(1) and the failure to use, or the inadequacy of, a safety device of the kind enumerated therein.' Moreover, section 240(1) is not applicable unless the plaintiffs injuries result from the elevation-related risk and the inadequacy of the safety device" (Nicometi v. Vineyards of Fredonia, LLC, 25 N.Y.3d 90, 96-97, 7 N.Y.S.3d 263, 30 N.E.3d 154 reargument denied, 25 N.Y.3d 1195, 16 N.Y.S.3d 54, 37 N.E.3d 113 [2015][internal citations omitted]).