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Robert Goodwin v. Columbia University, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op 32179 (NYLJ – July 7, 2020)

Recently, Justice Perry, Supreme Court, New York County, issued an interesting Labor Law decision.

Plaintiff was an electrician employed at Columbia University building site. On the date in question, his foreman directed him to install piping in a ceiling. He worked on a platform scaffold, and used a stair tower for access purposes. Handrails were attached to both. At the top of the staircase, there was a gap with a makeshift handrail. While ascending, he grabbed the makeshift railing which “gave way” when he stepped across the gap onto the stair tower, with no weight shifting on the handrail. He fell on the stair tower.

Plaintiff conceded his Labor Law §240 claims should be dismissed, but his §200 and common-law negligence claims should survive because defendants had not provided this Court with any evidence to establish that Columbia did not have actual or constructive notice of any unsafe conditions where plaintiff’s accident occurred.

“In order for an owner or general contractor to be liable for common-law negligence or a violation of Labor Law §200 for claims involving the manner in which the work is performed, it must be shown that the defendant had the authority to supervise or control the performance of the work”.

Moreover, “it must be demonstrated that the owner or general contractor had control over the work site and either created the dangerous condition causing an injury, or did not remedy the dangerous or defective condition, while having actual or constructive notice of it”.

Columbia, as the owner, maintained that it did not have notice of the alleged condition, nor did they supervise or have any control over the injury producing work.

Plaintiff deemed Columbia’s affidavit as “worthless”, yet provided no affidavit to refute Columbia’s position. Accordingly, the Court properly dismissed the Labor Law §200 and common-law claims against Columbia.


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