Sole Proximate Cause Defense in New York Example Cases

There are a myriad of decisions rejecting the defense of "sole proximate cause" based upon the plaintiff's negligence merely being a concurrent cause and not the sole proximate cause of the accident. In Montalvo v. J. Petrocelli Construction, Inc., 8 AD3d 173, 175, 780 N.Y.S.2d 558 (1st Dep't 2004) (where plaintiff was struck by a falling metallic casing as plaintiff was astride an A-frame ladder, where plaintiff was thrown forward and extended his right arm to break his fall, where plaintiff thus hyperextended his right arm, resulting in a dislocated right shoulder and torn rotator cuff, and where the accident was caused, at least in part, by defendant's "failure to properly secure the ladder by having someone hold it or by the provision of some other safety device ...", the actions of plaintiff and his co-worker in dropping the casing "were not a superseding cause under the circumstances"). In Gilbert v. Albany Medical Center, 9 AD3d 643, 779 N.Y.S.2d 653 (3rd Dep't 2004) (where plaintiff placed an A-frame ladder on a floor that was covered in polyethylene and was thereby slippery, and where plaintiff then caused the ladder to slip when he reached too far out in the course of his work, plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment and "[t]he fact that plaintiff may have been extending or reaching from the ladder would implicate comparative negligence, which is not a defense to a section 240(1) action"). In Serrano v. 432 Park South Realty Co., LLC, 8 AD3d 202, 779 N.Y.S.2d 198, 199 (1st Dep't 2004) (plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment where "[p]laintiff established that his accident was attributable to a lack of proper safety equipment and/or the failure to secure the ladder upon which he was working"; "Even if plaintiff had been negligent in continuing his work in his coworker's momentary absence, no triable issue would therefore be raised as ... such negligence would not be susceptible of characterization as the sole proximate cause of plaintiff's harm"). In Torres v. Monroe College, 12 AD3d 261, 785 N.Y.S.2d 57 (1st Dept. 2004), the Court held that even if one cause of the accident was plaintiff's improper use of an unopened A-frame ladder leaned against the wall from on top of a scaffold, plaintiff's negligence is not a defense unless such negligence is the sole proximate cause of the accident, and the Court determined that the facts revealed that the safety devices provided plaintiff were inadequate to protect him. Thus, the plaintiff's conduct was not the sole proximate cause of the accident.