News & Insights

New York Appellate Court Denies Summary Judgment Motion Against Owner General Contractor Because Owner General Contractor’s Defendant’s Evidence Created An Issue Of Fact

In Rivas v. Purvis Holdings, LLC, the owner/general contractor of a 28-story building project was sued by an employee of a masonry contractor in an attempt to recover damages for injuries suffered at the construction site. 2023 WL 8440738. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the cause of action alleging a violation of Labor Law § 240(1), and the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.  

In February 2015, plaintiff Rivas sued Purvis Holdings, LLC (“Purvis Holdings”) after suffering an injury at the construction site owned by Purvis Holdings. Rivas was employed by a masonry contractor that was hired by Purvis Holdings. Rivas was on a ladder between the 16th and 17th floors in order to inspect the cement on the 17th floor. The ladder moved and caused Rivas to fall approximately 8 to 10 feet to the 16th floor, resulting in Rivas’s injuries.  

Rivas moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability arising under Labor Law § 240(1), and Purvis Holdings moved for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint. New York Labor Law § 240(1) imposes a nondelegable duty upon owners and general contractors to provide safety devices necessary to protect workers from risks involved in elevated work sites. The Court found that Rivas’s evidence established that the ladder moved underneath him causing his fall, which would be sufficient to impose liability upon an owner and general contractor for a violation of Labor Law § 240(1). However, Purvis Holdings provided photographs showing that the ladder was not on a slippery surface, and the bottom of the ladder was immobilized by the use of an appropriately secured footing.

The Court held when “credible evidence reveals differing versions of the accident, one under which defendants would be liable and another under which they would not, questions of fact exist making summary judgment inappropriate.” The photographs provided by Purvis Holdings constituted credible evidence that would absolve the owner and general contractor of liability under Labor Law § 240(1). As such, the Court denied Rivas’s motion for summary judgment alleging a violation of Labor Law § 240(1) and Purvis Holdings’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

This case provides a reminder to owners and general contractors to document safety procedures on their construction sites. In the event that Purvis Holdings had not taken photographs of the safety measures they had employed on the site, the Court may have granted summary judgment against them, and they would be liable for Rivas’s injuries. Owners and general contractors in New York and nationwide should remember to take photographs and maintain other evidence of safety procedures on their construction sites to defend themselves against similar claims.