C. Jaye Berger in Board Operations on April 9, 2013
The statute applies to "all contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one- and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work...." The exception for owners of one- and two-family dwellings is known as the "Homeowner Exemption." The term "one-family dwellings" has been interpreted by the courts to include co-op apartments. The catch is that these owners cannot "direct or control the work." What that means is open to interpretation.
Co-op shareholders who like to give a lot of orders and are very involved in the day-to-day details of the work in their apartment renovations will find it harder to be let out of such cases, since the plaintiff will be claiming that they directed and controlled the work. Shareholders who have more traditional roles where they have architects communicating with the contractor and just comment on aesthetic issues will have an easier time when the attorneys file motions to be dismissed from the lawsuit.
Language in the contracts between shareholders and their contractors can be helpful in establishing this, so consult an attorney.
The co-op can also be sued under this law as an owner. However, the same reasoning has not been applied to condominium buildings for injuries to workers in an individual unit, even when they retain the right to review plans.
C. Jaye Berger, Esq., is the principal of Law Offices C. Jaye Berger.
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