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June 2017

Habitat

A contractor dies on the job. Who’s liable?
 
When shareholders perform work in their apartments, the concept is that the shareholder assumes all risk and liability in connection with that work. In other words, the cooperative corporation is not responsible for any damage or injury. Those principles are embedded in alteration agreements.
 
However, there are certain statutes, such as Labor Law Section 240, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” that make building owners liable for certain construction injuries, regardless of the owner’s actual involvement in the work. And even though a cooperative corporation is not a traditional building owner, these laws do apply and a cooperative will be held liable. Importantly, contributory negligence doesn’t count. So, if a worker is partly at fault, it cannot be used to defend the claim.
 
Which brings us to the case of Domaszowec v. Residential Management Group LLC. Shareholders of the cooperative at 40 Fifth Avenue contracted to have their windows washed. While doing that work, window washer Robert Domaszowec fell 13 stories to his death when the anchor/hook to which his harness was attached dislodged. Could this accident have been avoided? And just as important: who was liable?
 

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