Derdiarian v. Felix Contracting Corp.

51 N.Y.2d 308, 434 N.Y.S.2d 166, 414 N.E.2d 666 (1980)



To carry the burden of proving a prima facie case of negligence, the plaintiff must generally show that the defendant's negligence was a substantial cause of the events which produced the injury. Plaintiff need not demonstrate, however, that the precise manner in which the accident happened, or the extent of injuries, was foreseeable.


Plaintiff employee was injured on an excavation job when he was struck by a car driven by a man suffering an epileptic seizure. Plaintiff and plaintiff's wife sued defendant employer, defendant driver, and defendant contractor for negligence, claiming that the employer failed to maintain a safe work site by erecting a traffic barrier. The trial court found for plaintiff, apportioning defendant employer's liability at 55 percent. On appeal, defendant employer argued that there was no causal link between the employer's breach of duty and plaintiff's injuries.


Was there sufficient evidence that inadequate safety precautions on the work site by employer were the proximate cause of the accident?




The court affirmed the decision holding defendant employer liable for negligence because plaintiff employee's injuries were a foreseeable result of defendant employer's failure to maintain safe work site. From the evidence in the record, the jury could have found that the defendant negligently failed to safeguard the excavation site. A prime hazard associated with such dereliction is the possibility that a driver will negligently enter the work site and cause injury to a worker. That the driver was negligent, or even reckless, does not insulate defendant from liability.

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