Accidents Involving Painters Falling from Heights

Painting can be a dangerous activity, especially when having to paint areas requiring scaffolds or ladders to reach them. Because of this owners and general contractors of buildings are required to provide proper ladders, scaffolding and other safety devices to painters to prevent then from falling from a height. When a painter falls from a height, because of a ladder or scaffold collapse,or for other reasons, the painter may be able to collect for damages for the injuries suffered.

One of the most important laws protecting painters is Labor Law Section 240(1), which states that:

All 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...painting... 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 proper protection to a person so employed.

New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, held that a painter was entitled to recover for damages as a result of falling from a ladder, even where a proper ladder was provided.

In Felker v. Corning, Inc., 90 N.Y.2d 219, 224 the Court analyzed two different elevation-related risks involved in the accident of a worker who, while painting an alcove area, fell from his ladder over an alcove wall and through a suspended ceiling. The first risk identified by the Court, the inherent risk caused by raising the worker to a height above the alcove wall, was sufficiently addressed by the defendants who provided a stepladder as an enumerated safety device, and there were no allegations that it “was defective, that it slipped, tipped, was placed improperly or otherwise failed to support plaintiff” (id.). The second risk was that the worker needed to reach over the alcove to paint in an elevated open area; for this task, there was a“complete failure to provide any safety device,” and there was no view of the evidence which could lead to the conclusion that the absence of a safety device, violating Labor Law § 240(1), was not the cause of the accident.

In another case, a New York Appellate Court held that a painter could recover for injuries incurred from falling from a permanent ladder that he was required to use while gaining access to the Metropolitan Opera House roof where he was painting metal railings. He fell from the ladder while trying to close the hatch to the roof, a maneuver that required him to remove both hands from the ladder. The facts demonstrated that the Met and Lincoln Center failed to provide adequate safety devices to protect plaintiff from the risks associated with gaining access to the Opera House roof, and therefore they were liable for the painter's injuries under Labor Law § 240(1). Mayo v Metro. Opera Ass'n, Inc, 108 AD3d 422.

There are many other cases where a painter was able to recover damages because: the proper ladder was not provided; the ladder collapsed; proper scaffolding was not provided; the scaffolding collapsed; the ladder or scaffolding tipped or swayed; the scaffolding did not have guard rails; safety harnesses, or ties were not provided; or other proper safety devices were not provided or failed.

Accordingly, when the owner of a building or structure fails to provide a proper elevated working surface, such as a ladder or scaffold, fails to provide safe access to an elevated work site, or otherwise fails to provide proper safety devices to prevent a painter from falling from a height; the painter may collect damages for injuries suffered.

Damages that may be collected include: past and future pain and suffering for injuries and treatment(e.g. broken or fractured bones, torn ligaments, herniated discs, surgery, recovery, painful physical therapy, etc.); Loss of enjoyment of life (e.g. the inability to do activities as before, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, etc.); Medical costs (payments made for doctors, hospitals, surgeries, therapy, etc.); Out of pocket expenses (e.g. co-payments, transportation to medical appointments, medication, home modifications, medical supplies, home care, etc.); Lost earnings (past and future, including loss of benefits, etc.).

For further information or questions you should contact a New York personal injury lawyer experienced in handling construction accident cases, including those involving painters.

Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. is a NY personal injury law firm experienced in handling construction accident cases, including those involving painters. All consultations are free. There is never a fee unless there is a recovery. For a free consultation contact 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).

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