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New York Appellate Court Grants Partial Summary Judgment in Work Place Accident Case

Here, plaintiff’s accident arises out of the same facts and circumstances as the RN accident, as they were both employees of Rockledge and were standing on the same area of the sidewalk shed when it collapsed on July 12, 2003. Mr. OC and Mr. RN each asserted claims under Labor Law § 240(1) in their respective actions against defendants C and BW. The Bronx County court in the RN action determined that under the provisions of Labor Law § 240(1), these defendants were liable for the accident. C and BW had a full and fair opportunity to contest Mr. RN’ motion for summary judgment and they submitted opposition to that motion.

Defendants’ assertion that there has been a change in the facts and the law since the Bronx County decision and order of August 26, 2005 is rejected. The facts, as presented to the Bronx County court in 2005, have not changed. The jury in the indemnification trial was only required to determine whether York had any liability for the accident under the theory of contractual indemnification. The jury did not address the issue of whether C and BW were liable for the accident as this issue had already been determined. To the extent that C and BW assert that the jury verdict as to York affected the outcome of the RN summary judgment motion, it is noted that subsequent to the verdict of September 7, 2006 these defendants did not seek to reargue or renew the August 26, 2005 order and did not seek to perfect an appeal from that order. Moreover, during the course of the indemnification trial, these defendants admitted and represented to the jury that RN was engaged in a protected activity under Labor Law § 240(1) at the time of his injury and that they had been found liable for his injury.

The court further finds that there has been no change in the law since the Bronx County court determined RN’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. Defendants seek to rely on Beehner v Eckerd Corp., which was decided on November 30, 2004. In Beehner the court found that the retrieving of a serial number and other information after the work was completed was not a covered activity, and thus there was a bright line separating the enumerated and nonenumerated work. A review of the motion papers submitted in the RN summary judgment motion, which are submitted as exhibits here, reveals that the defendants’ opposing papers are dated March 7, 2005, some three months after the Beehner decision, and that defendants made no mention of Beehner. The Bronx County court did not render its decision until August 2005, some ten months after Beehner was decided.

The Court of Appeals has also recognized that whether particular work falls within the scope of construction, demolition, repair, or excavation protected by the Labor Law depends on a confluence of factors and the full context of the work. This test requires an inquiry into whether the work (a) fell into a separate phase easily distinguishable from other parts of a larger restoration and repair project and occurred after it was completed, or (b) was ongoing and contemporaneous with other work that formed part of a single restoration and repair project. In granting summary judgment to Mr. RN, the Bronx County court determined that the work performed fell within the scope of Labor Law § 240(1), and the evidence presented at the indemnification trial regarding York’s actions does not give rise to any new facts as regards the accident.

In view of the foregoing, plaintiff OC’s motion for partial summary judgment on his Labor Law § 240(1) cause of action against defendants C and BW on the issue of liability is granted. The defendants’ cross motions are denied as they are untimely.

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