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The Court of Appeals is frequently called upon to make rulings concerning the scope and application of Labor Law §240, the so-called scaffold statute. It sometimes explains the grounds for its determinations in great detail. This column concerns a recent case in which the court went in, well, a different direction.

The Court of Appeals’ memorandum opinion in Valente v. Lend Lease (U.S.) Constr. LMB, 29 N.Y.3d 1104 (2017) concerned two issues that often arise in application of Labor Law §240: (1) whether the subject accident was sufficiently “elevation-related” to trigger the statute’s protections and (2) whether a jury could find that the plaintiff-worker’s own negligence was the “sole proximate cause” of the accident. Yet, one cannot fully appreciate the nature of either of the court’s rulings absent some familiarity with the lower court rulings and the parties’ respective contentions, matters on which the Court of Appeals’ opinion sheds little light. It also helps to know something about the way accidents involving ramps have historically been treated under the statute.

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