New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BRIGGS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-009-14, Claim No. 107537, Motion No. M-67740


Case Information

TIMOTHY A. BRIGGS and NANCY M. BRIGGS The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
BY: Robert R. Jones, Esq.Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Greene, Hershdorfer & Sharpe
Bruce G. Soden, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 24, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimants have brought this motion seeking summary judgment on the issue of liability pursuant to Labor Law § 240(1). The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Attorney Affidavit, with Exhibits 1,2

Memorandum of Law 3

Since defendant has not submitted any papers in opposition to this motion, the following underlying facts are therefore accepted by the Court as undisputed.

According to claimants' papers submitted herein, the State had contracted with Lawrence Construction Company for a construction project to replace the bridges over Little Salmon River and Sage Creek along New York State Route 3 in the Town of Mexico, Oswego County. Lawrence Construction had entered into a sub-contract with R. DeVincentis Company to pour the concrete for the bridge decking on this project. Claimant Timothy Briggs[1] was employed as a laborer for R. DeVincentis Company. On November 15, 2001, claimant and another employee of R. DeVincentis Company, Jeffrey Palmatier, intended to pour the cement for the bridge decking in the northbound lane of Route 3. When they arrived at the construction site, it was necessary for them to access a bridge abutment, which was located on the opposite side of a large excavated trench to inspect the site. A pedestrian walkway, known as a work pik, had been made available on the site to provide access to this bridge abutment. This work pik was approximately 20 to 24 feet in length, and 18 to 24 inches in width, and it spanned the excavated trench. It was supported by vertical poles with hand rails on either side. One end of the work pik was placed on land, and the other end was placed on the bridge abutment.

On the day of the incident, both claimant and Mr. Palmatier utilized the work pik to access the bridge abutment, and after examining the abutment, they proceeded back across the excavated trench by walking on the work pik. Mr. Briggs followed Mr. Palmatier onto the work pik and when claimant was approximately half way across the trench, the work pik began to wobble, and it became apparent to Mr. Briggs that it was about to tip. He therefore jumped away from the falling work pik and into the excavated trench. He managed to avoid being hit by the falling work pik, and also avoided construction debris which was located at the bottom of the trench. In the process of landing in the trench, however, Mr. Briggs injured his right knee. Mr. Palmatier also fell from the work pik, but apparently did not sustain any injuries.

Based on these undisputed facts, claimants contend that Mr. Briggs was injured in an elevation-related accident for which defendant should be found liable under Labor Law § 240(1).

Labor Law § 240 (1) provides, in pertinent part, that
"[a]ll contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give protection to a person so employed."

It is well settled that the purpose behind § 240(1) is to place ultimate responsibility for safety at construction sites on the owner, and not the worker. In order to prevail on a cause of action based upon a violation of § 240(1), a claimant must establish that there was a violation of the statute, and that the violation was the proximate cause of the injury (see, Zimmer v Chemung County Performing

, 65 NY2d 513). The duty imposed is non-delegable and the negligence, if any, of the injured worker is of no consequence (see, Zimmer, supra at 521).

It has been stated that the statute should be construed as liberally as possible to accomplish its purpose of imposing absolute liability for a breach which proximately causes an injury (see, Misseritti v Mark IV Construction Co., Inc., 86 NY2d 487). An owner may escape liability only in situations where the worker's conduct is the sole proximate cause of the accident (see, Weininger v Hagedorn & Co., 91 NY2d 958).

In this matter, there can be no dispute that claimant was involved in the type of work intended to be covered by Labor Law § 240(1), and that he suffered injuries resulting from an elevated-related accident. Furthermore, the evidence submitted herein has established that the work pik was not properly placed on the bridge abutment, which caused it to wobble and fall, thereby failing to provide claimant with proper protection as required by Labor Law § 240(1). Evidence has also established that claimant was using the safety device in a normal and foreseeable manner. Finally, claimant has established that the collapse of this safety device was a proximate cause of his injuries. The Court is aware that claimant jumped from the work pik when it began to wobble, but his decision to do so cannot deprive him of the protection provided by § 240(1). (See, Bockmier v Niagara Recycling, Inc., 265 AD2d 897).

Based on the foregoing, therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-67740 is hereby GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED, that the Clerk of the Court is directed to enter an interlocutory judgment on the issue of liability in favor of the claimants in accordance with this decision and order. The Court will set this matter down for a trial limited solely to the issue of damages as soon as reasonably practicable, following a physical examination of the claimant Timothy A. Briggs, if desired, by defendant.

February 24, 2004
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Since the claim of Nancy M. Briggs is derivative in nature, all references to claimant, unless otherwise specified, are to Timothy A. Briggs.