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Unlike most other states New York has two laws, the so-called “Scaffold Law,” Labor Law 240 & Labor Law 241 that allow injured workers to collect workers compensation benefits from their employer as well as litigate against other “responsible parties.”

Workers Compensation Insurance was created to protect employers from getting sued by their employees and to provide coverage to employees for medical and compensation of wages while they cannot work in the event of an on the job accident. New York was the first state to pass a workers compensation law and the coverage is now required in all states. Prior to the Workers Comp mandate, the state of New York was a progressive state with regards to protecting employees and employers in the event of work accidents and they had implemented state labor Laws in the late 1800’s to do just that. These laws, New York State Labor Laws 200, 240(1), and 241(6) are a group of laws that were put in place to create a safe work environment for construction and heavy trade workers at the time when the only way to get paid for being injured on the job was by suing one’s employer.  Now that workers compensation exists, and is a federal requirement, these laws serve little purpose but for whatever reason have not been altered or removed. Roughly 30 years ago an attorney found that these laws could be exploited to produce large settlements (much of the time in the six-to-seven figure range) for their clients through the loop-holes created by leaving these laws on the books and transferring absolute liability to the project owners, general contractors and trade contractors that subcontracts work.

There are three N.Y.S. Labor Law statutes generally applicable in construction accident cases: Sections 200, 240(1) and 241(6). The Legislative intent for the special protections offered to construction workers, as set forth particularly in §§240(1) and 241(6), under Article 10 of the Labor Law, is to “protect workers by placing ultimate responsibility for safety practices at building construction sites upon the owners and general contractors, or their agents, instead of  the workers who me not in a position to protect themselves.” 1  The duties are non-delegable  as to the plaintiff, meaning that the owner and general contractor are liable to plaintiff even if others assumed the responsibility. 2 It has been held that subcontractors become “statutory agents” of the owner and general contractor, and hence Labor Law defendants, if they possess the authority to supervise and control the work. 3

    1. Zimmer v. Chemung County Center for Performing Arts, 65 N.Y.2d 513 (1985)
    2. Page v. LaBuzzetta, 73 A.D.2d 483 (3′., Dept. 1980).
    3. Russin v. Picciano & Son, 54 N.Y.2d 311(1981).