No Recovery For Worker Injured While Remedying Dangerous Condition, Says New York’s First Department

By:  Christopher L. Parisi

Should a maintenance worker hired to clean a dangerous condition be able to recover for injuries suffered while cleaning or removing that dangerous condition?  The answer is no, according to New York’s First Department.
 
In Black v. Wallace Church Association, plaintiff Calvin Black had been hired as a janitor for the defendant.  As a janitor, plaintiff’s duties included cleaning the building, which included the bathrooms. Plaintiff alleged that he was injured when he slipped and fell on pebbles while cleaning the bathroom floor.  However, plaintiff testified that while cleaning the bathroom previously, he often removed pebbles from the bathroom floor.
 
In upholding the trial court’s order granting defendant summary judgment, the First Department held, “It is well established that a maintenance or cleaning worker has no claim at law for injury suffered from a dangerous condition that he was hired to remedy”.  In reaching their decision, the Court cited Jackson v. Board of Education of the City of New York. 
 
In Jackson, plaintiff alleged injuries following a slip and fall on a piece of lettuce.  At the time of the accident, plaintiff Roosevelt Jackson was employed by Aramark and worked in the school in which he fell; his duties included sweeping the area of his alleged accident.  The Court in Jackson upheld the dismissal of plaintiff’s Complaint, and reasoned: “Given that there is no evidence even remotely suggesting that anyone connected with defendants created the condition complained of, the lack of actual or constructive notice of its existence on the part of any of the defendants serves to relieve all of them of any liability for plaintiff's accident. Moreover, since it was plaintiff's job to clean the floor of the type of foreign substance (vegetable matter) that he slipped on, FIT [the school] owed him no duty to keep the floor clean of such material.  FIT “could not have provided plaintiff with a work place that was safe from the defect that his employer was engaged to eliminate.”
 
As such, a plaintiff hired to clean, or remedy, some type of dangerous condition cannot recover for injuries suffered due to that specific dangerous condition.  Therefore, in premises liability cases brought by maintenance and cleaning workers of the premises, it should always be investigated whether the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a dangerous condition for which they were hired to remedy.