Court of Appeals Holds City, MTA Liable for Manhole Fall

In today’s Capital New York, Luca Marzorati provides an in-depth look at the Court of Appeals most recent – and troubling – Scaffold Law decision. This case illustrates just how difficult it is to plead the defense of “sole proximate cause.”

A divided New York State Court of Appeals found that New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the New York City Transit Authority were liable in the fall of an asbestos-removal worker through an uncovered manhole in January 2005. 

The case, Barreto v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had been dismissed by two lower courts before being heard by the state’s highest court in February.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge and a divided Appellate Division had previously ruled that the worker had caused injury because he disregarded his supervisor’s instructions to close the manhole cover before dismantling the construction enclosure, and that the proper safety equipment—in this case, the manhole cover—had been provided.

In a majority opinion written by Judge Eugene Pigott, and joined by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Judge Jenny Rivera, and Judge Eugene Fahey, the court found in favor of the worker.

Read the full article here

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