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In this case concerning a manufacturer's liability for a design defect where the allegedly defective products came into the injured end user's hands through the rental market, the Court of Appeals held that the jury instructions incorporating a "rental market" theory espoused by Plaintiff's expert were misleading and incompatible with governing precedent. In Scarangella v. Thomas Built Buses, 93 NY2d 655 (N.Y. 1999), the Court of Appeals recognized an exception to the general rule of strict products liability for design defects where the manufacturer offers a product with an optional safety device and the purchaser chooses not to obtain it. Plaintiff in this case alleged that a Bobcat S-175 "skid-steer" loader rented and operated by the decedent was defectively designed because it did not incorporate an optional door kit. The loader came into the decedent's hands through the rental market rather than by a purchase transaction. The jury rendered a verdict for Plaintiff. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the "rental market" distinction was a limitation to this Court's holding in Scarangella. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a "rental market" exclusion from the Scarangella exception is not appropriate, and Plaintiff's expert's rental market theory was improperly incorporated into the strict products liability instruction charged to the jury. View "Fasolas v. Bobcat of N.Y., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Court of Appeals held that the Public Service Law, in authorizing the Public Service Commission (PSC) to set the conditions under which public utilities will transport consumer-owned electricity and gas, authorized the PSC to issue an order that conditioned access to public utility infrastructure by energy service companies (ESCOs) upon ESCOs capping their prices in a certain manner. In 2016, the PSC issued the order challenged in this case that conditioned ESCOs' access to public utility infrastructure upon ESCOs capping their prices such that, on an annual basis, they charge no more for electricity than is charged by public utilities unless thirty percent of the energy is derived from renewable sources. Petitioners - ESCOs and their representative trade associations - commenced these two separate proceedings - combined N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceedings and actions for declaratory judgment - seeking a declaration that the order was void and a a permanent injunction enjoin the PSC from enforcing the order. Supreme Court granted the petitions to the extent of vacating the challenged provisions of the order. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed. The Court of Appeals modified the Appellate Division's orders, holding that the PSC did not exceed its statutory authority or violate Petitioners' constitutional rights in issuing the order. View "National Energy Marketers Ass'n v New York State Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division reversing Supreme Court's denial of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that the requisite showing of minimum contacts with New York was lacking. Plaintiffs commenced this personal injury action against several defendants, including the defendant at issue in this appeal, an Ohio firearm merchant who sold a gun to an Ohio resident in Ohio that was subsequently resold on the black market and used in a shooting in New York. Defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting a defense of lack of personal jurisdiction. Supreme Court denied the motion. The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed the complaint as against Defendant. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in the absence of minimum contacts, New York courts may not exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant. View "Williams v. Beemiller, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's conviction of manslaughter in the first degree, holding that no reasonable view of the evidence warranted a jury instruction on justification. Defendant shot and killed the victim in the lobby of Defendant's apartment building following an argument. Defendant asked the court for a justification instruction, but the court denied the request on the grounds that the evidence did not warrant a justification charge. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that Defendant was entitled to a jury instruction on justification. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to a justification charge on this record. View "People v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court dismissing this declaratory judgment action brought by commercial tenants who unambiguously agreed to waive the right to commence a declaratory judgment action as to the terms of their leases, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the waiver clause was enforceable, requiring dismissal of the complaint. Plaintiffs executed two commercial leases with the predecessor-in-interest of Defendant. Each lease incorporated a rider provided that the tenant waived its right to bring a declaratory judgment action with respect to any provision of the lease. After Defendant sent notices to Plaintiffs alleging various defaults Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking a declaratory judgment that they were not in default. Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. The Appellate Division affirmed, determining that the declaratory judgment waiver was enforceable and barred Plaintiffs' action. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the declaratory judgment waiver was enforceable, and therefore, the action was properly dismissed. View "159 MP Corp. v Redbridge Bedford, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division upholding Defendant's conviction of six counts of first-degree robbery, holding that the trial court created a specter of bias when it negotiated and entered into a cooperation agreement with a codefendant requiring the codefendant to testify against Defendant in exchange for a more favorable sentence. During Defendant's trial, the codefendant testified for the People, admitting to his own involvement in the robbery and identifying Defendant as his accomplice. Defendant moved to preclude the codefendant's testimony, arguing that the cooperation agreement between between the trial court and the codefendant indicated that the court had abdicated its responsibility to act in a neutral and detached manner. The trial court denied Defendant's motion, and Defendant was convicted. The Appellate Division upheld the judgment of conviction. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial court abandoned the role of a neutral arbiter and assumed the function of an interested party, thus denying Defendant his due process right to a fair trial in a fair tribunal. View "People v. Towns" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division granting Respondents' motion to dismiss Petitioner's petitions challenging real property assessments, holding that Petitioner lacked standing to bring an action seeking judicial review of property tax assessments under N.Y. Real Prop. Law (RPTL) 7 because Petitioner was a non-owner with no legal authorization or obligation to pay the real property taxes and, therefore, was not an aggrieved party with in the meaning of RPTL 7. Petitioner was a family-owned corporation that operated a restaurant on the property at issue. The real property was owned by two individuals. For four tax years Petitioner filed administrative grievance complaints challenging the real property assessments. The board of assessment review confirmed the tax assessments. Thereafter, Petitioner commenced tax certiorari proceedings pursuant to RPTL article 7. Supreme Court denied Respondents' motion to dismiss the petitions. The Appellate Division reversed and granted Respondents' motions to dismiss, concluding that, while Petitioner had standing as an aggrieved party, Petitioner failed to satisfy a condition precedent to the filing of the petitions. The Court of Appeals affirmed on other grounds, holding that Petitioner lacked standing. View "Larchmont Pancake House v. Board of Assessors" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of attempted assault in the first degree, holding that a portion of a testifying witness's prior grand jury testimony was properly admitted as a past recollection recorded to supplement his trial testimony. The Appellate Division held that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in admitting the grand jury testimony as a past recollection recorded because the People laid a proper foundation for the admission of the testimony and that there was no violation of the Confrontation Clause because the witness testified at trial and was subject to cross-examination. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was a proper foundation for receipt of the evidence and that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was not violated. View "People v. Tapia" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the decision of Supreme Court annulling the decision of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to approve the redevelopment of 346 Broadway, a historic building that the LPC previously designated as a landmark, holding that the LPC's decision was not irrational or affected by errors of law. If an application seeks to alter or demolish a landmark, the LPC must issue a certificate of appropriateness (COA) before the proposed work can begin. In this case, a developer seeking to convert the 346 Broadway into private residences sought a COA from the LPC. The LPC approved the proposal. Supreme Court annulled the COA, The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division erred in concluding that the LPC acted with "no rational basis" and that the LPC's decisions were not affected by an error of law. View "Save America's Clocks, Inc. v City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division denying Defendant's petition for a writ of error coram nobis based on Appellant's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Appellant was provided with meaningful representation under the State's ineffective assistance of counsel standard. In his petition, Appellant argued that he was deprived of the effective assistance of appellate counsel due to (1) counsel's failure to challenge his sentences as unduly harsh and severe, and (2) deficiencies in the quality of the appellate brief and appellate counsel's communication with Appellant. The Appellate Division denied Appellant's application. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Appellant was afforded meaningful representation on his direct appeal, and therefore, Appellant's counsel was not ineffective under the New York State Constitution; and (2) because the New York meaningful representation standard offers greater protection than the federal test, Appellant's federal constitutional challenge is rejected as well. View "People v. Alvarez" on Justia Law