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A provision of the Industrial Code concerning the operation of mobile cranes is more than a general safety standard and can support a claim under Labor Law �241(6), an appeals court in Manhattan has ruled. To make a case under �241(6), a plaintiff must prove that a defendant violated a rule or regulation of the Commissioner of Labor that sets forth a specific standard of conduct. In a decision of first impression last week, a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, 1st Department, ruled that such a standard is set by language in the Industrial Code governing mobile cranes. “We find that the regulation, which requires an inspection to ensure that a ‘load is well secured and properly balanced in the sling or lifting device before it is lifted more than a few inches,’ is not merely a general safety standard, but sets forth a specific standard of conduct,” Justice Richard T. Andrias wrote for the court in Cammon v. City of New York, 5339. The appeals court reversed a ruling by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Janice L. Bowman, who had set aside a jury verdict of $970,000. The court also awarded the plaintiff, Willie Cammon, a verdict on another Labor Law claim on which the jury had found that New York City had failed to protect him, but that its actions did not substantially contribute to his injuries. Cammon was involved in an accident while working on a floating raft in January 1992. The raft was tied to a dock at the Hunts Point Sanitation Department Transfer Station in the Bronx. He was working for a subcontractor hired by the city to perform repairs. Armed with a chainsaw, Cammon was removing an 8-foot, 200-pound section of 12-inch by 12-inch timber. It was a foot above his head. He had wrapped a chain, attached to the cable of a crane, around the timber so a crane operator would be able to lift it out after Cammon finished cutting it. Cammon had finished cutting one side when a large wave, caused by a passing tugboat, jolted the raft. The chain tightened around the timber and lifted it about 10 feet in the air. The timber struck Cammon’s head, throwing him against the work barge behind him that acted as a stage for the crane. The blow caused an injury to his back. Cammon sued, arguing that several safety precautions should have been taken. For one, no line had been hooked into the timber to act as a guide when it was lifted. And the crane was not resting on a “spud barge,” which is fitted with pipes that extend down to the river bottom and act as stabilizing feet. The jurors found that the city and its contractors had violated Labor Law �240(1) by failing to provide a hoist or other safety devices, but said that action was not a substantial cause of Cammon’s injuries. They also concluded that the city and its contractors were at fault because the timber was not properly balanced and well secured to the crane. Bowman, however, set aside that verdict, finding that Industrial Code regulations could not sustain a claim under �241(6). On appeal, the 1st Department rejected arguments that even if the regulation could sustain a claim, it was inapplicable in this case because Cammon was still cutting the timber at the time of the accident. Under the language of the regulation, the city and its contractors argued, the timber must be lifted or hoisted at the time of the accident for the regulation to apply. “Such argument, however, overlooks the regulation’s specific requirement that ‘before’ a load is hoisted, it must be well secured and balanced in the sling or lifting device,” Andrias wrote. The court said Cammon was entitled to a directed verdict on his other Labor Law claim, considering the jury’s findings on a failure to provide safety devices. This was not the first appellate stop for Cammon’s now 13-year-old case. Initially, his claims were dismissed as having been preempted by federal maritime law. But the 1st Department reversed that finding and the Court of Appeals agreed in 2000. A year later it denied a request to reconsider the matter and sent it back to the Bronx Supreme Court for trial. Justices David B. Saxe, Joseph P. Sullivan, Betty Weinberg Ellerin and John W. Sweeny concurred on last week’s 1st Department ruling. Paul T. Hofmann of Cappiello, Hofmann & Katz represented Mr. Cammon. Yolanda L. Ayala and Kevin G. Faley of Morris, Duffy, Alonso & Faley represented the city and its main contractor, Anjac Enterprises, Inc. John F. Karpousis of Freehill Hogan & Mahar represented a subcontractor, Macro Enterprises, Inc.

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