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"Integral to Work" Defense Upheld: Implications for Construction Injury Cases

Recently, the Appellate Division, First Department, in Maldonado v Hines 1045 Ave. of the Ams. Invs. LLC, 2024 NY Slip Op 00379, affirmed the dismissal of an injured construction worker's complaint against an owner and contractor under Labor Law Section 241(6), under the "integral to the work" defense. 

Labor Law Section 241(6) applies to owner, contractors, and their agents, except owners of one- and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work in the construction, demolition, and/or excavation of a structure and provides that all areas in which such work is being performed shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places. 

Liability under the statute must be predicated on the violation of a factually applicable and concretely specific provision of the New York State Industrial Code. 

Here, the plaintiff asserted that he was injured due to an alleged violation of NYS Industrial Code Section 23-1.7(e)(2), which provides: “Working areas. The parts of floors, platforms, and similar areas where persons work or pass shall be kept free from accumulations of dirt and debris, scattered tools and materials, and sharp projections insofar as may be consistent with the work being performed.”

The plaintiff was allegedly injured when he tripped over electrical conduit piping that rose vertically 5-12 inches in height from the floor surface in the lobby of a new building under construction. The lower court concluded that the evidence established as a matter of law that the conduits were integral to the ongoing construction work and thus an injury arising from that piping could not constitute a violation of the Section 23-1.7(e)(2). Accordingly, the cause of action predicated on that provision was dismissed. 

The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal. 

The decision highlights an important practice point. In these types of cases, it is imperative that all aspects of the work performed at the time of the accident are thoroughly explored in discovery. A failure to fully grasp the work being performed can significantly impact the defense of the claim. The record must accurately and clearly show what work was being performed. Only then can an expert opine on relevant issues, primarily whether the alleged violation is related to an item or material that was integral to the work being performed. More importantly, the court can only determine whether the "integral to the work" defense applies to any given factual scenario if it has a clear record establishing exactly what work was being performed at the time the injury arose and its place within the overall construction work ongoing at the time. 




Plaintiff, a welder, tripped over electrical conduit piping that rose vertically 5-12 inches in height from the floor surface in the lobby of a new building under construction and was injured. Defendants established prima facie entitlement to summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's Labor Law § 241(6) claim predicated upon Industrial Code (12 NYCRR) § 23-1.7(e)(2) upon proof that the protruding conduit was integral to the work being performed, namely, the installation of turnstiles in the lobby. In opposition, plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue. Plaintiffs' argument that defendants failed to offer any proof that they lacked authority to ensure that the protruding conduits were properly marked or cordoned-off for safety purposes is not a burden that can be implied from the regulatory language in 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(e)(2).


labor law, construction, litigation, appeal