Court of Appeals looks at “nexus” between owner and plaintiff in Labor Law Section 240(1) case: Abbatiello v. Lancaster Studio Assoc.

On July 1, 2004, the New York State Court of Appeals decided Abbatiello v. Lancaster Studio Assoc. 2004 WL 1472625. In that matter, a cable technician alleged a Labor Law Section 240(1) claim against a property owner as a result of a fall from a ladder while performing maintenance on equipment attached to the owner’s property. The owner had no knowledge that the plaintiff was called to the property, because a tenant had inquired about the cable service.

Interestingly, the first issue addressed by the Court of Appeals was the relationship between the owner and plaintiff. The Court of Appeals held that Labor Law Section 240(1) did not apply to the plaintiff, because there was no “nexus” between the owner and the plaintiff. The Court determined that the owner cannot be charged with the duty to provide a safe place to work to a worker of whom it is totally unaware. After determining that no nexus existed so as to hold the owner liable, the Court determined that the plaintiff was performing routine maintenance when he fell from the ladder. Accordingly, the Labor Law Section 240 claim failed as a matter of law.

The Abbatiello Court also clarified its recent Labor Law decision in Blake v. Neighborhood Housing Servs. of NYC, and stated that the statute imposes absolute liability on owners for any breach of a statutory duty that proximately caused the injuries.