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Homeowner Liability for Construction Accidents

It is common to assume that legal liability in construction site accidents involve only the injured party and the involved construction company. However, depending on the specifics of the accident and the exact location of the construction work, many other individuals and interests may be implicated.

For one thing, even individual homeowners (and their insurance companies) may be responsible for some accidents that occur at residential work locations. Every injury case is somewhat unique, and courts will reach different conclusions regarding who may be responsible depending on many nuanced factors. However, a New York court opinion published just this summer highlights the importance of homeowners understanding the legal duties imposed on them by having construction done on their property.

The opinion involved an accident on a work site that resulted in an injury to a contractor working on the site. As a result, the subcontractor brought a variety of legal claims against both another contractor working on the site and the homeowners themselves. Although the appellate court dismissed some of the claims against the homeowners, others were allowed to proceed, meaning that it may still be possible for the injured contractor to collect damages from the homeowners.

The Law in New York

In the opinion, the court analyzed a common situation for many New York residents. A homeowner hired a contractor to construct an addition to his home. A subcontractor was injured during the process, and he then sued both the homeowners and the other contractor in an attempt to recover.

These claims are based in specific sections of the New York Code pertaining to labor law requiring property owners and general contractors to provide safe work environments, as well as general negligence. The contractor often tries to defend themselves in these situations based on the fact that the homeowners had not hired them as a general contractor, so they had no control over the work site. This may leave only the homeowners themselves as possibly responsible for the injury.

In this case, the appellate court dismissed two of the claims based on sections of the labor law code because they require compliance with specific, onerous safety standards and consequently the code does not require "owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work" to comply with them. However, the court is allowing the other two claims to proceed.

These claims based in common law negligence and Labor Law § 200 are more general and simply state that the homeowner has a duty to provide a safe work environment. This means that if the contractor can show that the homeowners knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, and that they failed to fix that condition, the homeowners may be liable for the contractor's injuries.

Let Us Help You if You Have Been Injured

If you have suffered an injury on a construction site thanks to someone's carelessness, contact a NYC construction accident attorney. At Keogh Crispi, P.C., our experienced team can help you protect your rights.

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