New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Who Told Who? Labor Law 240 and the Recalcitrant Worker Defense

Posted on Dec 15, 2015 in Construction Accidents, Spinal Injuries

As we’ve discussed before, New York State labor law provides a relatively broad and expansive set of protections to New York construction workers, especially around certain protected activities that involve working on tall structures. But regardless of the general liability that this rule puts on companies and contractors, there are exclusions, and although some use the term “absolute liability,” the outcome of a work injury case is not absolute.

One possible defense from a company or controlling party would be the “recalcitrant worker” defense. This defense contends that the worker who was injured was offered serviceable and functional safety gear or equipment and turned down this equipment, or failed to abide by safety practices facilitated by the employer.

However, in a recalcitrant worker case, the company must demonstrate that the safety solution was provided to the worker or that the supervisor gave specific safety instructions, and that the worker refused to use safety equipment or deliberately did not follow safety instructions.

Conflicting Testimony

One of the biggest problems with a recalcitrant worker defense is that the courts have to navigate personal and sometimes conflicting testimony. Obviously, many workers are going to contend that they did not deliberately refuse safety equipment or deliberately choose not to follow safety instructions. However, employers and supervisors may have differing testimony.

Here, it becomes extremely important for lawyers to act in a competent way. New York injury lawyers encountering this type of gray area need to do all of the required research to support their client’s claims. That research can be key because where testimony differs, proving the facts is going to largely affect the outcome.

In these types of cases, New York personal injury attorneys also need to know about specific statutes and how they apply in New York courts. They need to understand the recalcitrant worker defense on a deep level in order to try to defeat this defense when it does not have merit or deal with its negative impact on a case. This is just one example of how these experienced legal professionals work to make sure their clients’ best interests are pursued, and that their clients’ voices are heard in a court of law.

It’s important for qualified lawyers to consult with clients, listen to their concerns and make them feel confident.  It’s also important that they keep those clients informed about court hearings and other events and explain to them what’s reasonable or normal in New York courts. They will also go to bat for the client and try to work through certain kinds of defense issues, including the defendant’s contention that someone essentially caused their own accident by not complying with available safety protocols.

‘Recalcitrant worker’ is different than ‘comparative negligence.’ It’s the idea that someone willfully ignored or disobeyed safety procedure and got injured as a result — and a good injury lawyer can handle a wide spectrum of these types of defenses well to make a determination as to whether they have any legitimacy or not.

New York City Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Can Help Harmed Construction Workers

Workers who sustain spinal injuries or are harmed in practically any other type of way in a New York City construction or building accident can contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff. Let us help you get justice under the law and represent your case in New York courts.

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