New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has ruled that a volunteer worker cannot receive the protections of Labor Law 240 (1) where he gets injured falling from a ladder while building a shed. See Stringer v. Musacchia, decided Oct. 21, 2008.
This case presents an interesting set of facts which arise from an annual turkey hunt.
Defendant John Musacchia, Jr., is a well known bow hunter and has a cable television show, “Muzzy Bad to the Bone Bowhunting TV.” He has invited celebrities to hunt with him for deer, moose, and wild hogs.
In rural Greene County Musacchia has an annual turkey hunt on his property. Plaintiff John Stringer, a hunter, and Musacchia entered an arrangement where Stringer would participate in the hunt at no cost to him in exchange for building a shed on Musacchia’s property. The arrangement included free hunting and room and board for Stringer at the residence on the property. For more than a week Stringer worked on the shed and hunted.
While working on the shed Stringer fell from an extension ladder. He tore his Achilles tendon which required a series of surgeries.
Stringer sued Musacchia under the strict liability provisions of Labor Law 240 (1) which provides a certain recovery for construction workers hurt on the job from elevation related accidents. The trial court ruled that the statute is applicable, that Stringer was a construction worker, and that Stringer has proved liability. Defendants appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed and ruled that Stringer was a volunteer and was not entitled to the statute’s recovery. Finally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division. Stringer’s case is dismissed.
In essence, the Court of Appeals ruled that Stringer was a volunteer, and the Labor Law protects workers and employees. Labor Law 240 (1) does not protect volunteers. The Labor Law does not protect one’s friends, neighbors, acquaintances, volunteers, and family members involved in construction. Stringer provided a casual, uncompensated service to Musacchia. For example, Musacchia did not supervise the work, he did not direct how the work was to be done, and he did not set a deadline for completion. This situation does not rise to a worker-employer relationship.
This is part of the continuing trend of New York’s highest court’s conservative and restrictive interpretation of the Labor Law.
In our next post we discuss a similar case that we handled.
We have handled many Labor Law cases. If you have been involved in a construction accident, please feel free to call me at 800-581-1434.
Mark E. Seitelman, 10/22/08, www.seitelman.com.