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BALCONY WITHOUT A RAILING
Q: At a house, I was performing demolition work. The owner had directed us to throw
nothing out of the windows. Instead, we were to throw all debris from a balcony. It had no
railing. I needed to toss out a door. As I did so, a piece of the door caught my clothing. This
caused the weight of the door to pull me over the ledge of the balcony. I fell 14 feet, onto the
A: An initial question that your lawyer must decide is whether to argue that the
homeowner is liable under sections 240 and 241 of the Labor Law. These sections provide an
exemption for owners of single and two-family houses. However, the exception does not apply
where the homeowner ‘directs or controls’ the work being performed. This depends upon the
degree to which the owner supervised the method and manner of your work. It seems to me that
this owner indeed exercised sufficient direction and control.
Your attorney also is likely to argue that the homeowner is liable under section 200 of
the Labor Law. Section 200 is the statutory equivalent of the common-law duty of landowners
and general contractors to provide workers with a reasonably safe place to work.
If we say that you were injured as a result of a dangerous condition, the owner’s
liability under section 200 rests upon whether he or she created the condition, or had actual or
constructive notice of it and a reasonable amount of time within which to correct the condition.
If we say that you were injured as a result of dangerous equipment, the owner’s
liability under section 200 rests upon whether he or she had the authority to supervise or control
the means and methods of the work.
A balcony without a railing was certainly a dangerous condition and arguably
dangerous equipment. Either way, you appear to have ample proof. This owner both (1) knew or
should have known of the dangerous condition and (2) had the authority to require you to use
some safety equipment.
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