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Who is Responsible for Injuries Caused by Intentional Acts of Violence on Construction Sites?


Leitner Varughese Construction Law

Construction site injuries that result in serious and life-threatening harm to construction workers typically occur as a result of negligence or defective equipment. When it comes to the “fatal four” in the construction industry, OSHA focuses on the ways in which employers and site owners can take precautions to prevent severe and deadly injuries caused by unintentional falls, electrocutions, struck-by accidents, and caught-in or caught-between accidents. Under New York law, construction workers who suffer these types of injuries, as well as other injuries resulting from unintentional accidents, may be able to seek compensation by filing a workers’ compensation claim and by filing a lawsuit against the employer for negligence under New York Labor Law §§ 200, 240, and/or 241. However, a construction workers’ injuries may need to be handled differently when they occur as a result of an intentional act of violence on the construction site.


Intentional acts of violence can have a wide variety of fact patterns, from assaults perpetrated by one construction worker against another on the job site to assaults perpetrated by third parties on remote construction sites where nobody is around to stop an attack. In such scenarios, the injured worker may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits and to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Who might be responsible in such a scenario?


Employer Liability Arising Out of Respondeat Superior and Intentional Acts


New York Labor Law only applies expressly in situations where an employer’s negligence resulted in a construction site injury, an injured worker may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer if the employer’s negligence results in an injury. However, a construction worker may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit against an employer if the employer intentionally harms the construction worker or under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, if the employer negligently hired another construction worker who causes intentional harm, the employer could be liable.


When a Co-Worker Perpetrates an Act of Intentional Violence on a Construction Site


On construction sites and other types of job sites, a co-worker who perpetrates an intentionally harmful act against one of their co-workers may be responsible for resulting injuries. A recent New York court case, Donnelly v. Christian (2020), emphasized that a co-worker who commits an intentional tort—such as assault or battery—against another co-worker is no longer operating within the scope of his or her employment and may be liable for injuries. In practical terms, this court decision means that a construction worker may be able to file a lawsuit against a co-worker (i.e., another construction worker) for an intentional assault or another intentional act that results in injury. Otherwise, when a co-worker causes an injury unintentionally, workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy.


It is important to note that this case also clarifies that a lawsuit against a co-worker for intentional harm does not preclude a workers’ compensation claim. Accordingly, an injured worker may also seek benefits through the New York workers’ compensation system.


File a Third-Party Claim


When a third party who is unaffiliated with the construction project causes intentional harm, an injured construction worker may be eligible to file a third-party claim against that party regardless of whether criminal charges are brought against that person.


Contact a Construction Accident Lawyer to Learn More About Filing a Lawsuit


Construction sites can have innumerable hazards without having to consider the possibility of an intentional assault or other act of violence. If you sustained injuries while working on a construction site because of another party’s intentional wrongdoing, you may be able to seek compensation. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC today to learn more.

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