Falling out of a Bucket Does Not Guarantee Success under the New York Labor Laws

In Joseph Robinson v. National Grid Energy Management LLC, et al., plaintiff fell from an aerial bucket lift and filed suit against the defendants, alleging his injuries arose from defendants’ violations of the New York Labor Laws. 

Plaintiff Joseph Robinson was employed as an electrical foreman for a company hired by one of the defendants.  On the date of the accident, plaintiff was directed to assist in the installation of an antenna located atop a utility pole.  However, after plaintiff climbed into the lift bucket, which was located on top of a truck, the lift mechanism failed and the bucket remained stuck on top of the truck.  When plaintiff realized he was unable to raise the lift, he attempted to climb out of the bucket. While exiting the bucket, plaintiff’s foot became stuck in a part of the bucket, causing him to slip and fall approximately twelve to fifteen feet.  Plaintiff testified, at his deposition, that the part of the bucket in which his foot became stuck was typically covered by a “dielectric liner.”

At the close of discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment, and the Court granted dismissal of plaintiff’s claims for violations of New York Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6); plaintiff appealed.  Labor Law § 240(1) requires contractors, owners, and their agents to provide adequate safety protection and safety devices, to their workers, for height-related risks.  Labor Law § 241(6) requires that contractors, owners, and their agents provide adequate protection and safety in all worksite areas affected by construction-related work.

In upholding the dismissal of plaintiff’s Labor Law § 240(1) claim, the Second Department reasoned that: (1) the bucket truck from which the injured plaintiff fell was not defective or inadequate insofar as it related to providing him with fall protection, and (2) the “dielectric liner”, which was missing from the bucket, was designed to protect against electric shocks, and not falls from the bucket.  The dismissal of plaintiff’s Labor Law § 241(6) claim was upheld because the Court determined that the work plaintiff was performing at the time of his accident did not involve construction, demolition, or excavation.

As such, the Second Department has reminded us that not all worksite, height-related falls are entitled to a Labor Law § 240(1) claim, and further, that all claims pursuant to Labor Law § 241(6) must arise from a construction-related task, and not routine maintenance or routine installations.