Whether an item is or is not a "structure" is fact-specific and must be determined on a case-by-case basis. In determining each case, courts may consider a number of relevant factors. These factors should include, but are not necessarily limited to, the item's size, purpose, design, composition, and degree of complexity; the ease or difficulty of its assembly and disassembly; the tools required to create it and dismantle it; the manner and degree of its interconnecting parts; and the amount of time the item is to exist. However, no one factor should be deemed controlling.
We find that in this case and upon consideration of all relevant factors, the Supreme Court properly held that the chupah at Abigail Kirsch was a "structure" within the intended scope of Labor Law § 240(1). In this action, the chupah consisted of various interconnected pipes 10 feet long and 3 inches wide, secured to steel metal bases supporting an attached fabric canopy. A ladder plus various hand tools were required to assemble and disassemble the chupah's constituent parts in a process that would take an experienced worker more than a few minutes to complete. The chupah here is more akin to the things and devices which the courts of this state have recognized as structures than to the things and devices that have not been recognized as structures.
This is not to say that every chupah qualifies as a structure under Labor Law § 240(1). Undoubtedly, there are wide variations of chupahs, some involving a series of durable interconnected parts, and others being much more simple and merely decorative in nature. Whether or not a chupah qualifies as a "structure" under Labor Law § 240(1) requires a consideration of more than only the purpose for which it is used. For example, the assembled pipe, wood, and fabric chupah in this matter consisted of intricate, interconnected parts, whereas, the wedding canopy in Stanislawczyk v 2 E. 61st St. Corp. (1 AD3d 155), a case upon which the defendants heavily rely, was suspended from a ceiling and was not itself assembled or interconnected with any other object. While the items here and in Stanislawczyk may have been used for the same ultimate purpose, the items themselves were, in a structural sense, vastly different from one another, one being a simple one-piece object, and the other being a collection of attached pieces of wood, metal, and fabric.
When it comes to topics for blog posts, New York State Labor Law Sections 240 and 241 (a/k/a, "the scaffolding law") are the gifts that keep on giving. Ordinarily, when we think of the scaffolding law, we think in terms of someone falling off of a building. However, as this court decision illustrates, many types of structures can be sources of Labor Law claims. Even a wedding canopy. Will this decision result in higher liability insurance rates for synagogues?
I'm being facetious here, but I keep reading reports that the commercial insurance market is hardening, so you never know...