De Haen v. Rockwood Sprinkler Co.

258 N.Y. 350, 179 N.E. 764 (1932)



The violation of a statute calling for a prescribed safeguard in the construction of a building does not establish liability if the statute is intended to protect against a particular hazard, and a hazard of a different kind is the occasion of the injury. 


Defendant general contractor, while constructing  a building, left a hoistway unguarded in violation of subdivision 5 of section 241 of the Labor Law. The servants of co-defendant subcontractor placed a radiator in dangerous proximity to the shaft and the servants of another negligently struck the radiator, causing it to fall into the shaft, as a result of which plaintiff's intestate was killed. In an action to recover for the death, a verdict was properly directed against all three contractors.  The subcontractor was held liable because his servants negligently placed the radiator dangerously close to the shaft; and the contractor was held liable because of an omission to fence the shaft as required by N.Y. Lab. Law § 241(5). On appeal, the court affirmed defendants' liability.


Was defendant general contractor liable for decedent's wrongful death?




The contractor was liable under § 241(5) because, even though the chief object of § 241(5) was to protect workmen from falling into a shaft, the court could not say that no other hazard was within the zone of apprehension. The court reasoned that a barrier fixed as required by the statute was a warning, and, if the hoistway had been guarded, it was unlikely that the radiator would have been placed within falling distance of the edge and that a worker would heedlessly have brushed against it, causing it to fall.

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