Not everyone working at an elevated height has a cause of action under New York's scaffolding law, according to an appellate court decision handed down on Tuesday:
Plaintiff house electrician was engaged in routine maintenance work when he fell from a ladder affixed to a scissor lift after fixing a light fixture (see Monaghan v 540 Inv. Land Co. LLC, 66 AD3d 605 ). Indeed, plaintiff testified that he fixed light fixtures about twice weekly, that "nine out of ten times" the house electricians would change the whole fixture when performing such work, and that he retrieved sockets and bulbs from the building's storage area in order to perform his work. Further, his subforeman stated in an affidavit that the high-voltage nature of the lights caused the sockets to deteriorate, requiring them to be replaced on a regular basis, which necessitated keeping a large volume of sockets in stock on the premises. [*2]Accordingly, plaintiff's work clearly involved "replacing components that require replacement in the course of normal wear and tear" (Esposito v New York City Indus. Dev. Agency, 1 NY3d 526, 528 ).
Apparently, someone engaged in routine maintenance is not engaged in construction, at least within the meaning of New York Labor Law Section 240. We tend to think of the scaffolding law as being a black hole into which contractors fall and automatically become liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As this case illustrates, the law is a little more complex than that.