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Braude Wins Summary Judgment in Labor Law Cases

April 25, 2011
Daniel Braude (Associate-White Plains) has obtained summary judgment in Queens County Supreme Court in favor of a rail-car manufacturer in two lawsuits. The plaintiffs, who were represented by the same counsel, both alleged permanent disability resulting from separate incidents at a rail-car modification facility.

The manufacturing/modification entity of the firm’s client, which was the plaintiffs' direct employer, was immune from suit under New York’s workers compensation laws. The plaintiffs therefore brought claims under New York Labor Law 200, 240(1) and 241(6) against an affiliated entity which had contracted for the work and leased the facility. The absence of the contracting entity’s involvement in the work performed and the failure by the plaintiffs to set forth any indication of an elevation-related risk permitted straightforward disposition of the 200 and 240(1) claims, respectively. Braude’s summary judgment motions therefore focused on the absence of “construction, excavation or demolition” work required for vicarious liability to attach pursuant to Labor Law 241(6).

The plaintiffs asserted that the rail cars constituted “structures” in the context of New York Labor Law and that performance of material alterations on the cars qualified as “construction” activity, thus giving the plaintiffs protected worker status under 241(6). In that regard, the basis for the motions was that all work performed at the subject facility was “non-structural” in nature and did not involve any significant physical change to the alleged structures in the context of “construction, excavation or demolition” work. Alternatively, Braude argued that both plaintiffs failed to allege an appropriate predicate Industrial Code violation since each of the multitude of violations set forth by each plaintiff was inapplicable to the facts or could not serve as an underlying basis for 241(6) liability.

Both courts agreed that the plaintiffs were not protected employees under Labor Law 241(6) based on Braude’s argument that the rail-car modification work was not performed in the context of “construction, excavation or demolition." Summary judgment was granted in full to the firm’s client in both lawsuits.

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