A judge should have stuck to his initial ruling in a case where a subcontractor’s employee was injured when he fell from a ladder, a state appellate court has ruled.
At a 2005 job, Peter Cioffi of Communication Technology Services was using a scissor lift to install a paging system in the stockroom of a Nassau County Target store. When done, he removed the lift but then remembered leaving his tool pouch hanging from a pipe in the stockroom. To save time, Cioffi used a ladder in the stockroom whose ownership is disputed in an attempt to retrieve the pouch. The ladder buckled and Cioffi fell about 18 feet.
He filed suit against Target, the contractor for the store’s renovation project and related entities, citing among other things, Labor Law §240(1), the so-called Scaffold Law, which imposes strict liability for contractors and property owners pertaining to a worker’s elevation-related injuries. The defendants launched a third-party action against Cioffi’s employer, CTS.
In September 2011, Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Ralph Gazzillo denied summary judgment motions filed by the defendants and CTS. Upon reargument, however, Gazzillo in April 2012 vacated his previous determinations and granted summary judgment on the §240 claim.
But the revision was error, the Appellate Division, Second Department said in a unanimous Feb. 26 ruling.
“It cannot be said, as a matter of law, that the injured plaintiff was negligent in choosing to use the ladder inside the stockroom, since it was left to his discretion whether to use a ladder or lift depending on the height of the work, and the ladder was high enough for him to retrieve his tool pouch,” the panel said in Cioffi v. Target Corporation, 2012-05299.
The panel was comprised of Justice William Mastro, Cheryl Chambers, Plummer Lott and Robert Miller.