The plaintiff's decedent was employed by a contractor hired by the Buffalo Sewer Department to replace six sluice gates in two subterranean coagulation basins at a water filtration plant. Approximately 40-50 manholes were constructed in the ground surface over each basin. The decedent went to move his car after a snowstorm had begun. His body was later found some forty feet below an uncovered manhole, at a distance about 100 feet from the spot where decedent had been working. The facts revealed that many of the manholes had been left uncovered.
The Beltz firm argued that the accident occurred by reason of a fall from an elevated worksite for which no safety devices had been provided and that New York's Labor Law thus applied. The trial court held section 240 of the Labor Law inapplicable, and the Beltz firm appealed. On appeal, the Appellate Division agreed with the Beltz firm and found the owner absolutely liable for the fall from an elevated work site for which no safety or protective devices had been provided. Shortly thereafter, the defendant agreed to pay $1,200,000.