Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In these three consolidated appeals the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of imprecise language in Defendants' written waivers of the right to appeal that mischaracterized the scope of the appellate rights waived as a condition of the plea bargains, adhering to well-established precedent in affirming in one case and reversing in other two cases. At issue was whether, under the circumstance of each of the three cases, the mischaracterizations impacted the knowing and voluntary nature of the three appeal waivers before the Court. The Court of Appeals (1) affirmed in one case, holding that the appeal waiver was knowingly and voluntarily entered; and (2) reversed in the other two cases, holding that the appeal waivers were involuntarily made and thus not enforceable. View "People v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division rejecting Defendant's challenges to his conviction of two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, holding that Defendant's conduct may be prosecuted as a homicide offense and that the conviction was supported by legally sufficient evidence. Two of Defendant's patients died of overdoses caused by a combination of oxycodone and alprazolam shortly after filling prescriptions for the drugs issued by Defendant. Defendant was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the second degree and related offenses. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that he could not be convicted of any homicide offense for providing controlled substances that result in an overdose death. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) there is no basis to conclude that the legislature intended to exclude from the ambit of homicide statutes the prosecution of a defendant who engages, with the requisite mens rea, in conduct through the provision of dangerous drugs that directly causes a person's death; and (2) sufficient evidence supported the conviction. View "People v. Li" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law and committed reversible error when it refused to allow Defendant to cross-examine two police officers in two specific areas involving officer dishonesty, holding that a law enforcement witness may be subject to cross-examination with respect to a its of dishonesty not proven at trial. In an shooting incident during which no one was injured two police officers identified the shooter as Defendant. At trial, the People's case rested almost entirely on the police officers' identification of Defendant as the shooter. Defendant was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree and related firearm counts. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) a defendant should be permitted to explore specific allegations of wrongdoing relevant to the credibility of a law enforcement witness, and law enforcement witnesses should be treated in the same manner as any other witness for purposes of cross-examination; and (2) Defendant was denied a fair trial inasmuch as the trial court refused to allow him to explore misstatements one of the officers made to a federal prosecutor. View "People v. Rouse" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of the Court of Claims granting the State's motion for summary judgment in this assault and battery case involving an inmate who was injured by a correction officer, holding that no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that the assault constituted action taken within the correction officer's scope of employment. Before the Court of Appeals the claimant argued that summary judgment was not properly granted because the assault was within the scope of the correction officer's employment, and therefore, the State was liable under the doctrine of respondent superior. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) there was no basis to conclude that the assault constituted conduct within the scope of employment; and (2) the claimant's remaining contentions were without merit. View "Rivera v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division's order affirming Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's action brought under N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. Law 1504(1) to discharge a mortgage on grounds that the statute of limitations on Defendant's foreclosure claim had expired, holding that Defendant's claims were not time barred. Under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 204(a), New York law tolls the statute of limitations where the "commencement of an action has been stayed by a court or by statutory prohibition." At issue was whether the bankruptcy stay of any judicial proceedings against a debtor upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition qualifies as a "statutory prohibition" under section 204(a). Defendant filed two foreclosure actions against Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed two bankruptcy petitions, and automatic bankruptcy stays were imposed. Plaintiff brought this action asserting that the statute of limitations on Defendant's foreclosure claim had expired. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had not expired because it was tolled while the bankruptcy stay was in effect. Supreme Court dismissed, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the bankruptcy stay is a "statutory prohibition" within the ambit of the New York tolling statute; and (2) Defendant's claims were not time barred when Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. View "Lubonty v. U.S. Bank National Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In these appeals stemming from two residential mortgage-back securities (RMBS) transactions the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division reversing the judgment of Supreme Court and granting Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaints alleging breaches of representations and warranties made in underlying mortgage loans, holding that Plaintiff's causes of action accrued in California, and Plaintiff's actions were untimely pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 202. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's actions, contending that pursuant to section 202 Plaintiff's causes of action accrued in California and were therefore untimely. Plaintiff conceded that it was a resident of California but argued that the court should apply a multi-factor analysis to determine where the cause of action accrued. Supreme Court denied Defendants' motions to dismiss, noting that the parties had chosen New York substantive law to govern their rights. The Appellate Division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to apply the multi-factor test urged by Plaintiff and instead relies on the general rule that when an economic injury has occurred the place of injury is usually where the plaintiff residents; and (2) where Plaintiff is a resident of California, to satisfy section 202 Plaintiff's actions must be timely under California's statute of limitations. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Barclays Bank PLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division confirming the determination of Respondents New York State Comptroller and New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System that Petitioner was not entitled to performance-of-duty disability retirement benefits under the circumstances of this case, holding that Petitioner's injuries were sustained by "any act of any inmate" within the meaning of N.Y. Retire. & Soc. Sec. Law 607-c(a). An inmate accidentally fell on Petitioner, a correction officer, while Petitioner was attempting to remove the inmate from a van. Petitioner applied for benefits under section 607-c(a). Respondents denied the application, concluding that the alleged cause of disability was not the result of an act of any inmate within the meaning of the statute. The Appellate Division agreed with Respondents, concluding that Petitioner's injuries did not arise directly and proximately from any disobedient and affirmative act of the inmate. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Appellate Division erred in restricting the word "act" in section 607-c(a) to "volitional or disobedient" acts; (2) the word "act" broadly includes voluntary and involuntary conduct; and (3) Petitioner's injuries were sustained by "any act of any inmate" in this case. View "Walsh v. New York State Comptroller" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming a Supreme Court judgment enjoining a three-day music and camping festival on Landowner's rural property in the Town of Delaware, holding that the challenged provisions of local zoning laws did not unconstitutionally restrict Landowner's First Amendment rights and were not void for vagueness. Landowner planned to sponsor on his sixty-eight-acre property a three-day event during which attendees would camp on the property and view live outdoor music performances. The Town commenced this action seeking an injunction against the event, alleging it was prohibited by the Town's Zoning Law. Supreme Court granted the Town's motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoined Landowner from holding the festival on his property. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that that relevant Zoning Law provisions were content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions compatible with the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the zoning provisions at issue satisfied the intermediate scrutiny test for content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions and survived Defendant's overbreadth challenge; and (2) Landowner's facial and as-applied void for vagueness challenges likewise failed. View "Town of Delaware v. Leifer" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division granting a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion by disapproving an insurance company bail bond package assembled by a bail bond company in conjunction with Defendant's family and friends. Supreme Court disapproved the bond at issue when exercising its review under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 520.30(1), concluding that the pledged collateral was "virtually nonexistent" and provided Defendant "with no incentive to return to court." Relator commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 70 habeas corpus proceeding on Defendant's behalf. The Appellate Division sustained the writ and directed that Defendant be released upon his posting of an insurance company bail bond in the aggregate sum of $500,000, ruling that Supreme Court erred in disapproving the bail. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) section 520.30(1) permits a court to determine whether the collateral securing the insurance company bail bond is so deficient that it fails to ensure the defendant's return to court in contravention of public policy; and (2) Supreme Court correctly interpreted the statute and did not abuse its discretion when it disapproved the bail package on public policy grounds. View "People ex rel. Prieston v. Nassau County Sheriff's Department" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals answered in the negative a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit asking whether N.Y. Pub. Health Law 230(11)(b) creates a private right of action for bad faith and malicious reporting to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, holding that there is not indication that the legislature intended to create a private right of action in section 230(11)(b). Plaintiff, a surgeon, treated four injured patients insured by Defendant and submitted claims to Defendant in connection with each patient. Defendant later filed complaints with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) alleging insurance fraud. After OPMC declined to impose discipline against Plaintiff, Plaintiff commenced this action asserting that Defendant's complaints lacked a good-faith basis in violation of section 230(11)(b) and interposed a separate caused of action for defamation. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230(11)(b) does not imply a private right of action. The federal district court granted the motion. On appeal, the Second Circuit certified the above question to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals held that the statutory text and legislative history of the statute do not imply a legislative intent to create a right of action under section 230(11)(b). View "Haar v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law