Brooklyn Court Rules Sanitation Worker’s Injury From Garbage is ‘Inherent Risk’

A recent ruling by the 2nd Department Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has recognized the “inherent risk” of injuries resulting from “ordinary and obvious” items in trash – a welcome measure of sanity in our state’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly legal system.

Russell Wagner, a 25 year old Brooklyn sanitation worker, was performing his normal duties of residential trash removal when suddenly, upon lifting and throwing a garbage bag, he felt something pierce his leg, causing him to drop to his knees.  After examining the bag, Wagner discovered a 1/2 inch by 3 inch piece of glass, and a piece of mail addressed to Janice and Jerry Wody. Armed with this information, he filed a lawsuit against the Wodys claiming they were negligent and responsible for his injuries.

The Brooklyn court dismissed this claim 3-1, ruling that the glass was “ordinary garbage” and a “hazard inherent” to the sanitation worker’s line of work. The plaintiff cited a recent case, Vega v. Restani Construction, in which a Bronx park maintenance worker was injured trying to remove a garbage bag with heavy construction debris. But, the majority didn’t buy it finding a clear distinction because the small piece of glass was an “ordinary” item. In the decision, the majority noted, “The law surely cannot be that homeowners can be made to answer to a jury because a sanitation worker is injured by a one-half inch by three-inch piece of glass contained in a 30-to-40-gallon waste bag that he was throwing into a garbage truck.”   

Wagner has still not returned to work, claiming the injuries have affected his walking.  An appeal is likely according to his lawyer.

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