*When is an Owner not an Owner for Labor Law §241(6) Purposes? And When is a Non-owner an Owner for Labor Law §241(6) Purposes?

In Scaparo v Village of Ilion decided on December 1, 2009, a unanimous Court of Appeals set forth the standard for who is an owner under Labor Law §241(6), when the owner did not contract for the work performed on its property, by relying upon a case that set the standard in a Labor Law §240(1 ) case.

“In cases imposing liability on a property owner who did not contract for the work performed on the property, this Court has required “some nexus between the owner and the worker, whether by a lease agreement or grant of an easement, or other property interest” (Abbatiello v Lancaster Studio Assoc., 3 NY3d 46, 51 [2004]). Here, although the accident occurred on HCIDA’s property, HCIDA did not contract with the Village of Frankfort to have the sewer lateral installed, it had no choice but to allow the Village to enter its property pursuant to a right-of-way, and it did not grant the Village an easement or other property interest creating the right-of-way.”

They also discussed the circumstance when a non titleholder can be an owner under Labor Law §241(6), however finding that not to be the case in this case.

“Courts have held that the term “owner” is not limited to the titleholder of the property where the accident occurred and encompasses a person “who has an interest in the property and who fulfilled the role of owner by contracting to have work performed for his [or her] benefit” (Copertino v Ward, 100 AD2d 565, 566 [2d Dept 1984]; see also Reisch v Amadori Constr. Co., 273 AD2d 855, 856 [4th Dept 2000]). Here, although the Church agreed to pay for the cost of materials, the Church had no interest in the property over which the sewer lateral was placed. Notably, municipal employees working at the site testified that no representative from the Church was present at, or gave directions during, the excavation work. Moreover, the testimony adduced indicated that the Village assumed full responsibility for installing the lateral sewer line and acknowledged that the lateral would be available for use by future property owners in the area who wished to connect to the Village sewer system.”

The lower court decision can be found here.

I note that I am using a new service of Google, Google Scholar to link some of the decisions cited above. With Google Scholar you can search articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

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