A steel-worker was injured when he was crushed by a 3,000 pound I-beam that was being manually moved at a construction site in lower Manhattan. The owner of the property hired a general contractor for the construction work. The general contractor then hired the steel-worker’s employer to serve as the structural steel subcontractor for the job.
On the day of his accident, the steel-worker’s supervisor gave him his assigned work, which included moving a number of large I-beams from one side of the building to the other. The I-beams were approximately 30-feet long and weighed 3,000 pounds. These I-beams were going to be used to construct the support for a balcony. On days prior to the accident, the workers used a crane to move the I-beams. However, that day the steel-worker and his co-workers were directed to manually move the I-beams, because there was a rush to lay concrete and moving the “jacks” would delay the job.
To manually move these large I-beams, the workers created a makeshift hoist by placing the I-beam on the top of two pipes. They moved one I-beam approximately 10-15 feet, when the I-beam suddenly tilted, struck the steel-worker’s leg and knocked him to the floor. As a result of the accident, the steel-worker sustained severe injuries to his left ankle and knee, back and neck.
The steel-worker sued the owner and general contractor (the defendants) under Labor Law § 240(1). The defendants also moved to dismiss the steel-worker’s Labor Law § 240(1) claim. Following discovery, the steel-worker moved for summary judgment. The steel-worker relied on Wilinski v. 334 East 92nd Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 18 N.Y.3d 4, a case The Platta Law Firm took to the Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest court) in 2011. In Wilinski, the Court of Appeals greatly expanded the protections of afforded to workers under Labor Law § 240(1).
Labor Law § 240(1) protects construction workers from gravity-related risks such as falling from a height or being struck by a falling object. This essentially required that there be a fairly significant height-differential between the object that fell and the worker. This all changed in the Wilinski case, in which the plaintiff was struck by upright metal pipes sitting on the floor, which toppled over and struck the plaintiff. Because the metal pipes were resting on the floor, they were “at the same level” as the plaintiff. However, because the pipes that struck the worker were heavy, they were capable of generating a significant amount of force even over a short distance, and posed a great danger to construction workers at the site. In other words, the collapse of these large objects are precisely the types of hazards that Labor Law § 240(1) was designed to protect worker from.
In the steel-worker’s case, the Court held that not only was the steel-worker not precluded from claiming a violation of Labor Law § 240(1) but given the significant amount of force that the 3,000 pound I-beam was capable of generating even over its short fall from the pipes to the steel-worker’s leg, the Wilinski case dictated that the steel-worker was entitled to summary judgment on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim. The Court noted that Labor Law was designed to protect workers from gravity-related hazards and that the owner and general are entrusted with the responsibility for ensuring a safe construction site because they are best suited to protect the workers, who are not in a position to protect themselves.
Accordingly, the Court granted the steel-worker’s summary judgment and remanded the case for a trial on the issue of damages, only. This steel-worker is just another in the long list of construction workers across the state who have benefited from The Platta Law Firm’s hard work and diligence in the Wilinski case.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.