Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law

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Nick Rigano purchased certain property and George Vignogna, through Vibar Construction Corp., agreed to develop the property. Vibar constructed a common driveway to access the property, but Rigano failed to compensate it. Vibar filed a notice of mechanic’s lien on the property to recover the cost of constructing the road. The notice listed Fawn Builders, Inc. as the owner of the property rather than Rigano, the true owner and Fawn Builders’ sole shareholder and president. Rigano sought to have the lien discharged on the ground that the notice did not comply with the Lien Law requirements. Supreme Court ultimately granted the petition and discharged the mechanic’s lien. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the notice was jurisdictionally defective because it misidentified the true owner of the property. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, under the particular circumstances presented here, the defect was a misdescription and not a misidentification, did not constitute a jurisdictional defect, and was curable by amendment. View "Rigano v. Vibar Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants, a construction company and the owner of a building, after he was injured when a heavy conduit pipe fell on his hand while he was working at the building, alleging that Defendants violated N.Y. Lab. Law 240(1). Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on liability, concluding that the conduit, being attached to the ceiling by a compression coupling that failed, was not properly secured so as to give proper protection to Plaintiff. The Appellate Division modified the order of the Supreme Court by denying Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendants’ failure to provide a protective device, i.e., a set-screw coupling rather than the purportedly inadequate compression coupling, was a proximate of his accident. The Court of Appeals accepted certification and held that the order of Supreme Court as modified by the Appellate Court was not property made, as Defendants’ failure to use a set screw couple was not a violation of section 240(1). View "Fabrizi v. 1095 Ave. of the Ams., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a personal injury action against Defendants, the construction manager and owner of a building at a construction site, after a large, flat object fell and injured his hand. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, a violation of N.Y. Lab. Law 241(6). Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s section 241(6) claim, arguing the form that injured Plaintiff’s hand was not subject to the safety requirements of Industrial Code N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. 12,23-2.2(a). The Court of Appeals remitted the matter for further proceedings for a hearing on whether the object as issue was a “form” within the meaning of the Industrial Code. After a hearing, Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s section 241(6) claim, concluding that the form at issue did not come within the coverage of the regulation or section 241(6). The Appellate Division reversed and granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The Court of Appeals accepted certification and concluded that the Appellate Division’s order should be affirmed, holding that the language of N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. 12,23-2.2(a) could sensibly be applied to the form that fell on Plaintiff’s hand.View "Morris v. Pavarini Constr." on Justia Law

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The Wicks Law requires public entities seeking bids on construction contracts to obtain separate specifications for three subdivisions of the work to be performed. Until 2008 when the law was amended to raise the threshold, the Wicks Law applied to contracts whose cost exceeded $50,000. The new, higher thresholds, unlike the old one, were not uniform throughout the State. Plaintiffs claimed, inter alia, that the amendments violated the Home Rule section of the State Constitution by unjustifiably favoring the eight counties with higher thresholds. Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert the Home Rule cause of action and that, in any event, the challenged amendments did not violate the Home Rule section because they "were enacted in furtherance of and bear a reasonable relationship to a substantial State-wide concern." The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding (1) at least one plaintiff had standing to assert the Home Rule claim, but that claim failed on the merits; and (2) most of Plaintiffs' other claims failed, but four causes of action challenging the apprenticeship requirements as applied to out-of-state contracts should be reinstated. View "Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Bath Volunteer Fire Department (BVFD), a not-for-profit fire corporation, obtained its own financing for the construction of a new firehouse and hired Petitioner as the general contractor. The Department of Labor subsequently concluded that the firehouse project was a public work subject to the prevailing wage law. BVFD agreed to indemnify Petitioner and its subcontractors against any liability resulting from their failure to pay the prevailing wages, and thereafter, the project was completed. The Appellate Division confirmed the determination that the project was subject to the prevailing wage law. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because no public agency, as contemplated by N.Y. Labor Law 220, was a party to the contract, the prevailing wage law did not apply. View "M.G.M. Insulation, Inc. v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the New York City School Construction Authority (Authority) violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) during a construction project by failing to discuss in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the methods it adopted for long-term maintenance and monitoring of the controls it used to prevent or mitigate environmental harm. Petitioners brought this action challenging that Authority's SEQRA compliance. Supreme court ordered the Authority to prepare a supplemental EIS based on any changes to the final EIS as a result of the Authority's completed, detailed long-term maintenance and monitoring plan. The Authority did not file a supplemental EIS but, instead, moved for reargument and renewal, asserting that its submission of a site management plan removed the need for any further SEQRA filing. Supreme court adhered to its previous ruling on reargument, and the appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) where important decisions about mitigation can only be made after the initial remedial measures are complete, a supplemental EIS may be called for, as it is here; and (2) nor does the submission of a site management plan justify short-circuiting SEQRA review. View "Bronx Comm. for Toxic Free Schs. v. N.Y. City Sch. Constr. Auth." on Justia Law

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This case arose when a tower crane operated by Joy collapsed during construction of a high-rise condominium, killing seven people and injuring dozens, damaging several buildings and destroying one. At issue was the dispute in coverage under the excess policy for "additional insureds" within the meaning of the comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy. The court concluded that there were material issues of fact in this case as to whether the high-rise building under construction was residential or mixed-use; Admiral's other claims related to Joy's alleged misrepresentations in its underwriting submission were properly interposed against Reliance and the owners/developers as well as Joy; the LLC exclusion did not foreclose coverage of those owners/developers that were limited liability companies; and defendants' remaining arguments were without merit. Accordingly, the court held that the order of the Supreme Court, as modified by the Appellate Division, was not properly made. View "Admiral Ins. Co. v Joy Contrs., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose when a real estate developer hired HOD to act as general contractor for the construction of two multi-family residences. HOD entered into a subcontract with Well Built for the masonry work. At issue was whether a general contractor acted as a joint employer of masonry workers, who were employed by one of its subcontractors, thereby owing unpaid wages to the subcontractor's workforce. The court held that the Board erred as a matter of law in relying on the federal six-factor test in Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., Inc. in reaching its determination of joint employment. Because the Board's factual findings indicated nothing more than that the usual contractor/subcontractor relationship existed between HOD and Well Built during the three-month period that Well Built's principal, Martin Bruten, was on the job, the court need not resort to federal precedent to resolve the issue. In any event, even if the court were to apply the Zheng test, the court would hold that HOD was not a joint employer of Well Built's employees. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division should be reversed and the matter remitted with directions to remand to the Board for further proceedings. View "Matter of Ovadia v Office of the Indus. Bd. of Appeals" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a contract between the school district and DJH to perform heating, ventilation, and air condition work. The contract required DJH to obtain a performance bond which DJH secured from Nova, a compensated surety. At issue was whether Nova was discharged from it surety obligation to the school district on the bases that the school district allegedly violated New York's Lien Law 70[1] by improperly diverting construction contract payments constituting trust fund assets to a non-beneficiary and breached the terms of the parties' performance bond. The court held that under the facts, Nova had not demonstrated that discharge of its surety obligation was warranted. The court also considered whether the school district was entitled to attorneys' fees expended in the prosecution of the litigation and concluded that the request for attorneys' fees was properly denied. View "Mount Vernon City School Dist. v Nova Cas. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced a lawsuit against 96 Rockaway, LLC, Novalex Contracting Corp., and T-Construction Co., Inc., alleging among other things, violations of Labor Law 240(a) and 241(6). Discovery and a third-party action ensued. T-Construction moved for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the complaint, and all cross-claims against it. 96 Rockaway and Novalex cross-moved for identical relief. Supreme Court granted defendants' motions, and dismissed plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. The Appellate Division reversed so much of Supreme Court's order as granted defendants' motions for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims, denied the motions, and reinstated those claims. The court held that, given that Labor Law 240(1) should be construed with a common sense approach to the realities of the workplace at issue, defendants were entitled to summary judgment dismissing that claim. Plaintiff's Labor Law 241(6) cause of action, predicated on a violation of 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(b)(1)(i), failed for similar reasons. Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division was reversed. View "Salazar v Novalex Contr. Corp." on Justia Law