New York Appellate Division, First Department, Takes Expansive View of Labor Law § 241(6)

By: Ethan R. Buttner

On February 16, 2017, the New York Appellate Division, First Department, issued an opinion reversing the dismissal of NY Labor Law § 241(6) claims against a landowner and general contractor.  In Gerrish v. 56 Leonard LLC, et al., the New York County Supreme Court granted defendant 56 Leonard LLC’s and Lend Lease (US) Construction LMB Inc.’s motions to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7).  In reversing, the First Department held that the temporary off-site facility in the Bronx in which plaintiff was working was part of the construction site at 56 Leonard Street in Manhattan, thus falling within definition of construction site mandated by Labor Law § 241(6).
 
This matter arose when plaintiff, Robert Gerrish, sustained injuries when he tripped and fell at a work site.  At the time, plaintiff was working at a yard in the Bronx bending and cutting steel rebar to be used for ongoing construction at 56 Leonard Street in Manhattan.  56 Leonard owned the subject premises, and Lend Lease was hired as construction manager.  Lend Lease subcontracted with Collavino Structures LLC, which in turn subcontracted with plaintiff’s employer, Navillus Tile, Inc.  The Collavino and Navillus subcontract provided that Collavino would provide all trucking of bent rebar from the Bronx Yard to the construction site.  The subcontract further provided that Collavino would secure temporary facilities at its sole cost, and that the temporary facilities would be in locations designated by 56 Leonard and Lend Lease. 
 
Labor Law § 241(6) dictates that all contractors, owners, and their agents must provide reasonable and adequate safety protections to individuals employed at a construction site.  Pursuant thereto, 56 Leonard and Lend Lease moved to dismiss plaintiff’s Complaint, arguing that Labor Law § 241(6) did not apply because plaintiff’s alleged injuries did not occur at a construction site.  The Trial Court agreed and dismissed plaintiff’s Labor Law § 241(6) claims.  The First Department reversed, taking an expansive view of what can be considered a construction site under Labor Law § 241(6).  The Court specified that an off-site facility is not required to be located within a certain proximity to the construction site to be considered a part of that construction site within the meaning of Labor Law § 241(6).  Further, the First Department specified that ownership of the off-site facility by the construction project’s property owner or contractor is not a prerequisite for liability under Labor Law § 241(6).  As a result, the First Department determined that there is a close nexus between the leasing of the Bronx Yard and the construction of 56 Leonard Street.  The First Department reasoned that Collavino agreed to place the temporary facility in which plaintiff was working in a location designated by 56 Leonard and Lend Lease.  As a result, the First Department found that there are sufficient questions of fact to call into question 56 Leonard’s and Lend Lease’s involvement and control of the off-site facility under Labor Law § 241(6). 
 
Under this ruling, defendants may have greater exposure to liability under Labor Law § 241(6).  Here, the First Department expressly ruled that, under circumstances similar to those cited above, a person who becomes injured at an off-site facility, located miles from a construction site, can still be considered to be working at a construction site under Labor Law § 241(6), thus requiring the owner and/or general contractor to provide reasonable and adequate safety protections at off-site construction facilities.