labor law

While a kitchen remodel was underway in the ground-floor apartment of his four-unit brownstone in Bed-Stuy, Professor Walter Montgomery was threatened with an unexpected expense that tested the strength of his liability coverage.


It’s a fabulous feeling – that moment when you’ve finally saved up enough money to make some wanted, and often needed, renovations to your home. This was exactly the case for Walter Montgomery, Professor of Anthropology at a local New York university.

During Prof. Montgomery’s small kitchen renovation, a contracted painter fell from a ladder and sustained long-term injuries to his back and his knee. Due to the strict liability nature of Labor Law 240, Prof. Montgomery was held liable for the contracted painter’s injuries even though he did not provide the ladder to the painter or dictate how the painter’s work was to be done.

“I heard a cry from the other room, and I immediately ran in to see what was wrong,” said Prof. Montgomery. “I found the painter crumpled under the ladder, and I immediately tried to help. The painter stood up, brushed himself off, and said he was fine. I told him to take the rest of the day off and make sure that he was OK. It didn’t seem like he was hurt.”

“Sometime later, after the job was completed, I got another surprise when I was served with a legal document called a Summons and Complaint demanding I appear in court and claiming the painter had sustained serious injuries. It also claimed that I was liable for those injuries pursuant to something called Labor Law 240,” said Prof. Montgomery as he recounted the claim.

“I didn’t even know there was a Labor Law 240 or that it applied to me, a homeowner doing a small renovation. I’m not a big construction outfit, how could I be expected to know about the complicated laws designed to keep construction workers safe? I’m a teacher, not a lawyer,” said Montgomery. “In the end, my insurance carrier settled the claim with the painter for $340,000. It’s a damn good thing I had general liability coverage in place that was broad enough to cover Labor Law 240, or I would be eating on the streets, not in my new kitchen.”

What started as an exciting home improvement turned into a costly headache. Luckily, Prof. Montgomery’s coverage prevented further problems. Checking to make sure your general liability insurance has broad coverage can help protect against situations like this one.