A divided New York appeals court on Thursday reversed a grant of summary judgment to the defendant in the case of a worker injured in a fall from a ladder.
Scott Thomas fell from an A-frame ladder that tipped while carrying a roughly 90-pound piece of drywall he was trying to hand off to a co-worker who was operating a scissor lift, according to Thomas v. North County Family Health Center Inc., filed in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Judicial Department, in Rochester.
Thomas sued North County Family Health Center Inc., claiming they failed to follow safety precautions for employees. The center moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, and a Jefferson County Superior Court judge granted the motion.
The Appellate Division̵7;s Fourth Circuit said summary judgment was not warranted because there was a triable issue of fact as to whether Thomas’ conduct was the sole proximate cause of the accident due to his failure to use available, safe, and appropriate equipment to lift the drywall.
The court said it could not find that Thomas was the sole proximate cause of the accident because there was evidence that a co-worker denied Thomas’ request to access the unit by refusing to reposition it so he could safely lift the drywall into place.
The court said summary judgment on a separate claim was appropriate because the medical center found that the footings on the ladders were secure.
One of the five appeal judges disagreed, saying it was established “that the claimant knew by his training, past practice and common sense not to carry the Sheetrock by hand up the ladder and that he was instead expected to use the scissor lift provided, and that the claimant would not have would have been injured if he had chosen to use the adequate safety device rather than the inappropriate method.”
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