Fronce V. Port Ryan Telephone Company, Inc.

134 A.D.3d 1405 (4th Dept. 2015) December 23, 2015

The plaintiff was injured when he fell from an aerial bucket attached to a boom on a bucket truck while attempting to remove cables from a utility pole on defendant’s property. The defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s Labor Law §240(1) claim. The court denied the motion, finding that defendants were owners within the meaning of the Labor Law. The court found a nexus between the defendants and the plaintiff because the plaintiff was employed by a successor-in-interest to a corporation that the defendants had granted an easement allowing it to maintain its utility poles and cables on the defendant’s properties. The court also granted the plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment under §240(1) because the plaintiff was engaged in an activity covered by the statute and his accident involved an elevation-related risk. The court also found that the defendant’s violation caused the plaintiff’s injuries and the defendant failed to raise an issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his accident.

Practice Note: The court noted that because the defendant’s statutory violation was a proximate cause of the accident, any failure of the plaintiff to wear a safety harness would merely have constituted comparative negligence — which is not a defense under Labor Law §240(1).

Topics: Application of the Labor Law; Failure to Provide Protection; Sole Proximate Cause