Roofing is a dangerous job. In fact, roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America with close to one hundred fatalities occurring every year. The most common cause of roofing injuries falls—slips and trips. This increased exposure to harm is why roofers deserve the extraordinary protections of New York State’s Labor Law. According to Partner John DeGasperis, “New York’s legislature had roofers specifically in mind when it passed the ‘Scaffold Law.’”
In this recent case, John used the Scaffold Law to recover damages for a man who fell while working on a roof. John’s client was employed as the foreman on a large-scale roofing project at the Margaretville Nursing Home. Naturally, as a roofer, John’s client was required to work at elevated heights. The accident happened while John’s client and a small crew of men were unloading sheets of plywood from a mechanized lift on to the sloped roof. The men were working directly above a sidewalk on the ground below. They were piling the wood with the new plywood sheets.
At some point in time, one of the crew members placed a Skil-Saw on top of the plywood pile. When it came time to lay out the new sheets of plywood, one of the other roofers removed a sheet of plywood from the top of the pile without first removing the Skil-Saw. The Skil-Saw fell from the pile and slid down toward the roof’s edge. Upon observing the saw, John’s client jumped into action and chased after the saw. In doing so, he tripped over a rope that was connected to another roofer’s safety harnesses. Our client sustained serious injuries from his fall.
John prosecuted a case on behalf of the roofer against the nursing home pursuant to New York’s “Scaffold Law,” which is codified in New York’s Labor Law. The Labor Law imposes an absolute and nondelegable duty on property owners to provide appropriate scaffolding and other safety devices to workers engaged in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of building or structure. The facts of this particular case were challenging because John’s client did not fall off the roof, nor was he struck from a falling object. Instead, he fell on the roof where he was working, which means he was not necessarily injured due to the gravity-related risks enumerated in the Scaffold Law.
John argued that his client did qualify for the protections set forth in the Labor Law. John argued to the Court that “every aspect of the roofing foreman’s injury flowed from the application of the force of gravity to both the Skil-Saw and himself. In fact, he was exposed to not one, but three gravity-related hazards.” The first gravity-related hazard involved our client’s work position on a steeply pitched roof. The second gravity related risk involved a falling object, i.e., the Skil-Saw, which fell from an elevation above the roof level. The third gravity-related hazard involved the continuation of the Skil-Saw’s momentum down the roof, toward the roof’s edge, and to the sidewalk below.
In order to prevail on a Labor Law claim, the injured plaintiff is obligated to identify what safety devices should have been—but were not—provided by the property owner. Here, the nursing home failed to provide John’s client with a ground-supported scaffold, as well as “suitable overhead protection” to persons, such as nursing home staff and guests, who were likely to pass by the construction site. Suitable overhead protection would have consisted of safety devices such as “railings, fences, barricades, sheeting and shoring, sidewalk sheds, temporary walkways, and temporary roadways.” None of these measures were taken by the nursing home.
John DeGasperis has long claimed that Labor Law cases are his favorite personal injury cases to handle. “I love representing construction workers. They are hard-working people who lose a lot when they get hurt on the job. They often suffer massive loss of wage claims. To an injured worker, being out of work is scary. These cases give me a real purpose, as the goal is always to help ensure my client’s financial security. I am restoring a wage that my client would have earned if it were not for a violation of the Labor Law.”
The nursing home denied responsibility for the injuries sustained by John’s client, but John never gave up. John battled the nursing home’s lawyers from New York City until a settlement was finally offered. The settlement will ensure that John’s client was compensated for his loss of wage.
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