New York Helicopter Crash Gives Rise to Worker’s 240 Labor Law Claim
Manhattan aviation accident law firm Bohrer & Lukeman, PLLC has filed what is believed to be a case of first impression under Section 240 of New York’s Labor Law stemming from a helicopter accident that seriously injured its passenger, an aerial lineman, who was performing repairs to a utility tower and line from the hovering helicopter which struck the tower and crashed.
The action, entitled Scaletta v. Michels Power, Inc., et al, was filed on June 6, 2023 in the Supreme Court, Sullivan County and alleges that on June 18, 2021, Plaintiff, Brandon Scaletta, 37, was employed by Haverfield Aviation of Gettysburg Pennsylvania as a helicopter lineman performing repairs to a section of high voltage towers and wires known as the Marcy South Project in Swan Lake, Town of Bethel. Plaintiff’s job required him to perform the repairs or modifications at high altitude, from an external platform mounted to a hovering helicopter’s landing skids.
Plaintiff’s complaint contends that while working at an elevated height and engaged in a protected activity as defined by Section 240 et. seq. of the Labor Law, one or more portions of the device lifting, hoisting, or otherwise elevating him, namely the 1989 McDonnell Douglas model 350 helicopter registration N371EE,… malfunctioned, lost altitude and impacted the woods and ground below resulting in serious injuries to Plaintiff.
An FAA report concluded the helicopter’s main rotor struck a portion of the tower causing a loss of control and subsequent crash. Rescue workers had to hike into a wooded area to locate the wreckage and extract Plaintiff, who was flown to Westchester County Medical Center for emergency surgery.
The lawsuit, filed by Manhattan aviation accident and injury law firm Bohrer & Lukeman, PLLC, seeks monetary damages as against Michels’ Inc, a leading national utility infrastructure and logistics company as the project’s general contractor, New York State Electric & Gas Corporation as the co-owner of the structure and lines, as well as Haverfield Aviation’s parent company, Texas based Quanta Services, LLC, and another subsidiary, Quanta Aviation Services for allowing the accident helicopter to operate with an unapproved work platform and negligently, carelessly and recklessly certifying the accident pilot to perform high altitude tower and line repair work for which he was not properly qualified.
Bohrer & Lukeman attorney Abe Bohrer said pleading the helicopter as the means of a hoist or lift presents a novel factual issue under Labor Law Section 240, but it was inevitable such an incident would occur given their increased use repairing power and communication lines and the utility towers from which they are suspended. Bohrer said “these Defendants placed our client at a significant risk of a gravity related injury and failed to provide him with proper fall protection and a safe place to work as required by the Labor Law. He added, “…for purposes of Labor Law 240, a lineman repairing a tower or line from a hovering helicopter deserves the same protection as a worker elevated by a crane, bucket truck, cherry picker, high-low or other boom, all of which have been held to fall within protection of the statute. Aviation-based line repair companies must take greater steps to protect courageous workers like Mr. Scaletta from this risk of harm and our justice system must hold them accountable if they fail to do so!”