Hector Luna v. 4300 Crescent, LLC
This case arose following a trial in the Supreme Court, Kings County, whereby the jury rendered a verdict finding in favor of the defendants on the issue of Labor Law §240 (1). The plaintiff then moved in the same court to set aside the jury verdict as against the weight of the evidence and for judgment as a matter of law favoring the plaintiff, or in the alternative, setting aside the verdict and ordering a new trial. The plaintiff’s motion was denied by the trial court.
Plaintiff appealed both the judgment (Supreme Court, Kings County, Justice Arthur M. Shack, entered on April 13, 2017), and the order of the same court denying the plaintiff’s motion (Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, dated November 21, 2016).
The Appellate Division, Second Department, denied the plaintiff’s appeal and affirmed the verdict and judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s cause of action alleging a violation of Labor Law §240 (1).
The injury occurred as the plaintiff was trying to move a mortar buggy down a ramp during construction. The Appellate Division, Second Department, decided that for a court to conclude as a matter of law that a jury verdict is not supported by sufficient evidence "it is necessary to first conclude that there is simply no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could possibly lead rational [persons] to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence presented at trial." Cohen v. Hallmark Cards, 45 NY2d 493 (1978).
A jury verdict should not be set aside as contrary to the weight of the evidence unless it "could not have been reached on any fair interpretation of the evidence." Lolik v. Big V Supermarkets, 86 NY2d 744 (1995).
Labor Law § 240 (1) serves to "protect construction workers not from routine workplace risks, but from the pronounced risks arising from construction work site elevation differentials." Runner v. New York Stock Exch., Inc., 13 N.Y.3d 599 (2009).
Labor Law § 240 (1) may be imposed only where the harm "flows directly from the application of the force of gravity." Runner v. New York Stock Exch., Inc., 13 N.Y.3d 599 (2009).
Where an accident is caused by a violation of Labor Law § 240 (1), the plaintiff's own negligence does not furnish a defense; however, there can be no liability under Labor Law § 240 (1) where the plaintiff's own actions are the sole proximate cause of the accident.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, found that there was a valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could have led a rational jury to conclude that the injured plaintiff's own conduct in attempting to move the motor buggy without assistance was the sole proximate cause of his injuries rather than any violation of Labor Law § 240 (1). It cannot be said that the jury's verdict could not have been reached on any fair interpretation of the evidence, the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence.
See, 2019 NY Slip Op 05972. Decided on July 31, 2019 by the Appellate Division, Second Department.