What is a third-party action?
Jun 06, 2019 | 1098 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print

When you bring a case for personal injuries, the parties you sue have the right to bring in other entities they believe are responsible for your accident and injuries, or who have a contractual duty to compensate you for their negligence in causing your accident.

They can bring in these other entities through an additional lawsuit called “third-party action.”  These are especially common in construction accident cases.

New York State Labor Law holds the owners of construction sites and their agents and contractors liable for certain classes of workplace accidents.  Because of Workers’ Compensation Laws, a worker cannot sue their employer when they are involved in a workplace accident.

However, because the employer can often be the party most responsible for the accident, the other parties that are sued, like a building owner or general contractor, often start third-party claims against the employer.

This can sometimes be beneficial to an injured worker, as third-party actions can bring in necessary parties – and additional insurance policies – into a lawsuit.  However, they can also complicate lawsuits and cause them to take much longer to resolve.

In a case dealing with this issue, a man was working for a contractor at a construction site when he was asked by a supervisor from the general contractor to raise a pipe that was too low. The worker told the supervisor that he needed a ladder to reach the pipe, which was 15 feet above him.

The man’s company did not have a ladder that reached that high, so the supervisor for the general contractor pointed to a ladder in the area and told him to use that one.

The man climbed the ladder and was tightening bolts on the pipe when the ladder suddenly split in two pieces, causing him to fall and sustain injuries.

The injured construction worker filed a lawsuit against the owner, developer, managing agent, and general contractor. The owner and general contractor argued that they had entered into an agreement with another entity to perform HVAC work at this construction site.

That other entity hired the plaintiff’s employer to perform some of the work under the HVAC agreement. 

The plaintiff’s employer was brought in as a third-party defendant. In turn, they argued that they were not in fact the plaintiff’s employer and that he was working for another contractor on the site.

The owner and general contractor also filed third-party claims against the company that the plaintiff’s employer said he was truly employed by and the company that supplied the ladder from which the plaintiff fell.

These third-party claims included claims of breach of contract, negligence, contribution, indemnification, and failure to procure insurance.

As plaintiff had a strong case under Labor Law 240, he filed a request with a judge to find the owner and the general contractor automatically responsible for his accident. The court granted his request. After lengthy negotiations this case settled for $3.6 million. 

The third-party claims and cross-claims proceeded to trial. The court dismissed the claims against plaintiff’s alleged employer. A jury determined that plaintiff’s actual employer was not negligent, and the company that hired his employer did not have a written contract to perform the HVAC work and thus did not have to contribute to the settlement.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at swp@plattalaw.com, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.

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