Settlement for a Fall from a Loft in Manhattan: Hurt on the Job, but the Landlord Had to Pay

Under New York’s Workers Compensation laws, employees hurt on the job are generally prevented from suing their employer for compensation for their injuries. In this case, a Brooklyn woman was hurt on the job in Manhattan, yet in investigating the case, we were able to develop a legal theory that made the landlord responsible for her injuries, not her employer. Therefore, we sought compensation from the landlord for her injuries. This week, we settled the case for an amount that made my client very happy.

The Facts of an Unusual Case: A Fall from a Loft

My client was an instructor and manager at a Manhattan yoga studio. Her duties required her to retrieve the cash drawer key, cash and daily cash records from the safe each morning. The safe was located in a loft area accessible only by a ladder.

The loft was approximately 10 feet by 10 feet in size but the ceiling height was less than 5 feet high. The woman could not stand up straight in the loft. The loft was open to the downstairs studio but there was no railing on the edge of the loft that overlooked the studio. To make the situation more hazardous, the yoga studio owner allowed two people to sleep in the loft area on a temporary basis. Although they weren’t there at the time of the incident, their belongings were strewn in the loft. My client was attempting to get around the clutter when she fell from the loft and landed on the floor below on her back and buttocks.

In shock and in pain, the woman screamed and other employees came to her aid. She went immediately to the emergency room at Beth Israel Hospital. Doctors treated her injuries, which included a fractured coccyx.

Holding the Landlord Responsible for an Illegal Loft Structure

This incident happened on the job so my client and others who advised her assumed that she could not receive compensation for her injuries. Once she brought her case to me, I was able to demonstrate that the prime cause of my client’s injury was the design of the illegal loft. The loft did not allow sufficient height and most importantly, lacked a railing. New York City law makes the property owner responsible for all structures in a building regardless of who constructs or installs the structure. This is not a mere technicality: the landlord must make sure that all structures meet code because failing to do puts tenants and visitors at risk.

As a result of this situation, my client could seek compensation for her injury from the landlord. Once we completed our investigation and the woman’s condition stabilized, we prepared a Settlement Proposal. The defendant landlord’s claims management firm recognized their liability. We provided documentation of my client’s injuries and analysis and case law research to maximize the value of her injuries. The defendant agreed to a fair settlement.

New York’s Worker’s Compensation Program

If you are injured on the job in New York, you automatically qualify for Workers’ Compensation and your employer should file a claim on your behalf immediately. (You only have 30 days to file.) Workers’ Compensation will cover your medical expenses and other cash expenses related to your injury. If you must miss more than seven days of work due to a work-related injury or illness, Workers’ Compensation will partially reimburse you for lost wages. The amount you receive will depend upon your average weekly wage for the previous year. The maximum amount paid cannot exceed $500 per week.

You do not need to prove that anyone was at fault to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. As long as the injury occurred while on the job, you qualify for NY Workers’ Compensation benefits.

In exchange for giving employees these benefits, the NY Workers’ Compensation law limits the ability to seek additional damages from an employer. If you were hurt on the job, you can collect Workers’ Compensation benefits, but you generally cannot sue your employer for additional compensation for your injuries. (You can read more on this topic here, here, here and here). This case was different, because my client did not seek compensation from her employer and she was free to seek compensation from the landlord.

Hurt on the Job by Someone Other Than Your Employer or Fellow Employee

I have handled many cases for clients who were hurt on the job yet the cause of their injury lay without someone other than their employer. In these and other cases, I helped clients recover compensation from the negligent party:

Here are some other sample cases I have or have handled where an employee was hurt on the job and sought compensation from someone other than his or her employer:

  • A Postal Worker drove her forklift onto a tractor trailer only to have that truck driver pull out and send her crashing to the ground, injuring her back. We held the truck driver responsible for her injures.
  • An insurance adjuster visited an auto body repair shop to take pictures of a client’s car. While in the garage, the man stepped into an uncovered hole and hurt his leg. His employer was the insurance company, but he received compensation from the auto repair shop for their negligence. (I take it as a compliment when insurance adjusters and court personnel retain me to represent them since they work with lawyers all the time and are good judges of an attorney’s performance).
  • A home health aide rode a bus with her client and the bus suddenly stopped short, throwing her forward and injuring her neck, back and leg. She was employed by the home care agency, but received compensation from the bus company.
  • A truck driver backed his tractor-trailer into a loading dock and climbed out of his cab. While crossing the parking lot, the driver fell into an uncovered drain. He worked for the trucking company and sought damages from the property owner.
  • A meter reader walked to the back of a small apartment building where a squirrel leapt out of a nest in the building wall and knocked him down the stairs, injuring his hand, leg and back. The utility employed him, but the landowner bore responsibility for his accident and injuries.
  • A U.S. Postal employee drove his vehicle and was struck by another car. The man was employed by the Post Office, but brought a case against the driver who hit him.
  • A social worker visited the apartment of a client. While walking up the stairs to the home, the stairs collapsed under her and left her badly injured. The woman was employed by the social services agency, but sought compensation against the property owner who ultimately pointed the finger at the construction company that installed the defective stairs.
  • A man working as a porter in a Manhattan building entered the elevator in the building only to have the elevator drop to the basement leaving him with a neck and knee injuries. He was employed by the building management firm, but we received compensation from the elevator service company.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one has been hurt on the job in New York, make sure you apply for Workers Compensation. If your injury resulted because of the negligence of someone other than your employer or a co-worker, you may be able to pursue additional compensation. If you think you may qualify for additional compensation, you may want to consult an experienced New York personal injury attorney. I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. The consultation is always free. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.

Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney

This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney. Remember, past results do not guarantee similar outcomes in the future.

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