Case Summary : Alan Morton v. State of New York, 15 N.Y.3d 50, 904 N.Y.S.2d 350 (2010) (June 8, 2010)

Summary: Alan Morton v. State of New York, 15 N.Y.3d 50, 904 N.Y.S.2d 350 (2010) (June 8, 2010). Plaintiff was injured while working in a trench when a side wall caved in, injuring his right leg and foot. On this appeal, the main issue was whether the owner of the property was liable under Labor Law §241(6). The Court, in a 5-2 decision, found that the owner of the property was not liable and noted:

. . . we have consistently held that ownership of the premises where the accident occurred -- standing above -- is not sufficient enough to impose liability under Labor Law §241(6) where the property owner did not contract for the work resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries . . . .”

While ownership is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one because there must be “some nexus between the owner and the worker, whether by lease agreement or grant of an easement, or other property interest . . . .”

Practice Note: In reaching its decision, the majority of the Court discussed at length its prior rulings on ownership and liability under the Labor Law. The dissent, however, noted that the statutory law does not contain any provision ‘conditioning’ the liability of an owner upon the party’s consent.