Warehouse management firm partially at fault for injury: Court

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Reprints

warehouse

A warehouse management company failed to show that it was covered by the exclusivity provision of New York’s Workers Compensation Act in a lawsuit filed by a man who was injured on its premises.

In Mendoza v. Enchante Accessories Inc., the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn unanimously affirmed on Wednesday a jury decision apportioning 25% of the accident to the warehouse manager.

In February 2008, Jesus Mendoza was working for EDS Distribution Services at a warehouse managed by Enchante Accessories Inc., when he fell from a stock-picking machine and suffered injuries.

He filed a complaint against Enchante, arguing that the company had control over training and use of warehouse equipment and safety devices, and that the company’s negligence led to his accident.

Enchante argued that EDS had control and management of the warehouse, and that Mr. Mendoza’s decision not to wear a safety belt was the sole proximate cause of his accident.

A jury found that Enchante exercised control over the warehouse and that the company’s negligence was a substantial factor in the accident. The jury apportioned 25% of the liability for the accident to Enchante.

Enchante moved for judgment as a matter of law to dismiss the complaint or set aside the jury verdict. A court denied the motions and the company appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the denial of Enchante’s motions, finding that the testimony of a supervisor and an employee supported Mr. Mendoza’s contention that Enchante supervised and controlled warehouse work and the safety devices used.

Mr. Mendoza also submitted evidence that workers were not always required to use safety belts when operating the stock-picking machine and that belts were not always available.

The court held that the jury rationally inferred that Enchante’s negligence to provide proper training and safety belts was a substantial factor contributing to Mr. Mendoza’s injuries.

The appellate court also noted that Enchante failed to provide evidence to rebut the testimony of Mr. Mendoza’s witnesses, and failed to show any evidence that Mr. Mendoza’s claims against the company were precluded by the exclusivity provision of the Workers Compensation Act.