These winter days of snow-caked rooftops, there are lots of folks are up on roofs with chisels, hammers and shovels trying to dislodge ice and clear off snow. And for a good reason; all that snow and ice buildup can damage the roof, and can even cause the roof to collapse! That’s pretty dangerous, but being up there on the snow-and-ice capped roof, if you don’t know what you are doing, isn’t so safe either. Quick advice from this Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer: Don’t do it yourself unless you know what you are doing. Hire a contractor or roofer instead.
But wait a minute. If you do hire someone to do it for you, and he falls off your roof and is injured or dies, can he, or his family, sue you?
Before I tell you the answer, let me give you some law. New York has a special law, called New York Labor Law 240, which provides that workers may bring a lawsuit against the “owner” of a building (among others) if the workers fall and are injured while engaged in either “cleaning” or “repair” work (among other things). Clearing snow and ice off a roof has been held to be a “cleaning” activity, and of course fixing a leak is a “repair” activity, so if someone falls from your roof while doing either of those things, you, the homeowner, would, at first glance, seem to be liable for the injuries sustained by the fallen worker.
But wait! There’s an exception that saves you, the homeowner, from having to lose sleep over the possibility that Joe the Roofer might sue you for his injuries when he falls from your roof. What is it? Drum roll please . . . .
Labor Law 240 provides that the owner of a non-commercial one or two-family dwelling (i.e., a “home”) is not liable for the roofer’s injuries as long as the homeowner did not “direct or control” the work. In other words, you can go ahead and hire a contractor or roofer to get that snow and ice off your roof, or to fix that leaky roof, as long as you don’t tell or show him how to do it. To be safe, you’d be better off not even lending him the equipment to do it. Let him “direct and control” himself. And let him get his own stuff to do it.
As you can imagine, falls from roofs can cause very serious injuries, some of which are compensable by millions of dollars. Take it from me; my law firm and I have successfully won millions for workers who have fallen from roofs. We have never sued a homeowner on behalf of a fallen worker, though. Why not? As I already told you, they are generally immune from liability (unless they micro-manage the job). We usually sue these cases out against industrial or commercial owners of property and against the general contractor of construction projects.
So don’t worry, be happy! I’m not going to sue you on behalf of that roofer or contractor you hire to get rid of that ice or snow or fix your leaky roof! But if you are someone, or know someone, who fell from a roof while clearing snow or ice or while repairing a leak, especially on a commercial building, do call, or have him or her call me.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.