Labor Law Covers Jewish Chupah in Injury Case

     (CN) – A florist worker who fell off a ladder while taking apart a Jewish wedding canopy can collect damages for labor-law violations, a New York appeals court ruled.
     Atlas Florists had provided the chupah to Abigail Kirsch at Stage 6, a premier event space at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, for a wedding in 2008.
     In traditional Jewish weddings, brides and grooms stand under the chupah canopy during the ceremony.
     Samuel McCoy, an Atlas truck driver, began dissembling the 10-foot-high chupah after the wedding, using a pipe wrench, florist knife and wire cutters.
     A few minutes into the job, however, the ladder slipped and sent McCoy crashing to the floor.
     McCoy sued Abigail Kirsch, Steiner Studios and their subsidiaries for labor law violations and other causes of action. Both sides sought summary judgment on the labor law claim, a decision that hinged on whether chupahs qualify as structures.
     Finding that chupahs are structures, a Kings County Supreme Court judge awarded judgment to McCoy.
     The appellate division’s Brooklyn-based Second Judicial Department affirmed last week.
     Property owners are obligated to provide safety devices to people who work on a structure, according to the seven-page ruling.
     In the past, courts have applied the status of a “structure” to a ticket booth, a utility pole, a Shell gasoline sign and a window exhibit at a home-improvement show.
     Nonstructures have included set decorations for a television show, commercial dishwashing machines and a wooden disc suspended from the ceiling for a wedding ceremony.
     The chupah, which consisted of “interconnected pipes 10 feet long and 3 inches wide, secured to steel metal bases supporting an attached fabric canopy,” qualifies as a structure, the court found.
     “A ladder plus various hand tools were required to assemble and disassemble the chupah’s constituent parts in a process that would take an experienced worker more than a few minutes to complete,” Justice Mark Dillon wrote for a four-member panel. “The chupah here is more akin to the things and devices which the courts of this state have recognized as structures than to the things and devices that have not been recognized as structures.”
     This decision does not give structure status to all chupahs, Dillon noted, saying that a canopy consisting of a “simple one-piece object” suspended from the ceiling would not qualify.

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