The New York State Supreme Court, Kings County granted Harris Beach’s summary judgment motion in its entirety and dismissed all claims against its homeowner client, where a construction worker sustained injuries after a fall from a makeshift cinderblock staircase while performing renovation work at the homeowner’s two-family home.

The plaintiff and his wife asserted five causes of actions for negligence, violations of New York Labor Law §§ 200, 240, and 241, and loss of consortium. Generally, Labor Law §§ 240 and 241 impose near-absolute liability on property owners and contractors for incidents that occur on their properties, regardless of actual fault. But the law carves out an exception for owners of one- and two-family homes who contract for, but do not direct or control, the work.

Harris Beach successfully asserted the “homeowner’s exemption,” as its homeowner client met both of these criteria. Harris Beach also successfully argued that its client did not direct or control any work, further shielding the homeowner from liability and leading to dismissal of the negligence, Labor Law § 200, and derivative loss of consortium claims. This win serves as a reminder to anyone contemplating home renovation or construction work at their home to ensure they have proper insurance coverage and risk-transfer contracts in place. Further, homeowners are encouraged to rely on their contractors to supervise construction work, as too much involvement by the homeowner may impose liability on them.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.