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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree rape, holding that Defendant did not carry his burden of demonstrating ineffective assistance of counsel and that, even if erroneous, the introduction of DNA evidence was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to review or comprehend the significance of surveillance video evidence contradicting his grand jury testimony of a consensual sexual encounter with the victim, and (2) the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment rights by admitting DNA evidence at trial because the analyst who testified at trial did not generate the DNA profile taken from Defendant's buccal swab. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) defense counsel provided meaningful representation; and (2) because the DNA evidence did not go to the determinative issue of consent, any error in admitting it was harmless. View "People v. Lopez-Mendoza" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of second-degree burglary and petit larceny, holding that defense counsel did not provide ineffective assistance by advancing a jury nullification defense at trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective because he exclusively pursued a jury nullification defense to the exclusion of other viable defenses. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that defense counsel pursued a reasonable strategy and provided meaningful representation. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the record of counsel's performance demonstrated that Defendant failed to sustain his burden that he was deprived of meaningful representation. View "People v. Mendoza" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court holding that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) violated section 71 of the Civil Service Law by refusing to reinstate Petitioner to her labor class caretaker position after terminating her, holding that Petitioner did not fall with the ambit of N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law 71, a provision governing reinstatement of public sector employees injured on the job. Petitioner's petition fell within the "labor class" - one of four classifications under New York's Civil Service Law - which includes "all unskilled laborers" in the State's service. NYCHA terminated Petitioner after she missed more than one year of work due to a disability. Petitioner requested reinstatement, but NYCHA refused. Petitioner then filed this action. Supreme Court granted the petition as against NYCHA, concluding that the plain language of section 71 did not exclude labor class employees. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that NYCHA did not violate section 71 when it refused to reinstate Petitioner. View "Jordan v. New York City Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court directing disclosure of electronic copies of ballots stored by Essex County voting machines in the November 2015 general election, holding that N.Y. Elec. Law 3-222 protects disclosure of ballot copies during the relevant time frame. In December 2015, Petitioner requested the electronic ballot copies preserved by the Essex County Board of Elections (County Board). The County Attorney determined that section 3-222(2), which prohibits examination of "voted ballots" absent a court order or legislative committee direction during the first two years following an election, barred examination of the "voted ballots." In ordering immediate release of the ballot images Supreme Court concluded that section 3-222 did not protect the copies from disclosure and that the two-year limitation on examination of voted ballots outlined in section 3-222(2) did not encompass electronic ballot copies. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 3-222(2) prevented the County Board from granting Petitioner's request for disclosure of electronic copies of those ballots. View "Kosmider v. Whitney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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In this insurance dispute involving an insurer withholding payments to a medical service corporation improperly controlled by nonphysicans the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court did not err in declining to give a charge requiring the jury to find fraudulent intent or conduct "tantamount to fraud" in order to reach a verdict in favor of the insurers. Plaintiff Andrew Carothers, M.D., P.C., a professional service corporation, filed multiple collection actions against insurance carriers seeking to recover unpaid claims of assigned first-party no-fault insurance benefits. The jury found that Defendants had proved that Plaintiff was "fraudulently incorporated" and that Carothers did not engage in the practice of medicine. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court erred in failing to give a jury instruction on "the traditional elements of common-law fraud and fraudulent intent. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court's instructions to the jury were proper. View "Carothers v. Progressive Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division and reinstated the order of Supreme Court convicting Defendant of murder in the second degree on the theory of felony murder, robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, holding that to the extent there was any suppression of impeachment material, there was no reasonable possibility that the verdict would have been different if the information at issue had been disclosed. The Appellate Division granted Defendant's motion to vacate his conviction, holding that the People violated their obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose favorable impeachment material derived from the circumstances of a prosecution witness's pending burglary case and that the People failed to correct misleading testimony provided by the witness on that subject at trial. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the failure to disclose the particular evidence would have affected the verdict. View "People v. Giuca" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court granting Defendant summary judgment in this insurance dispute, holding that a general business practice of failing promptly to disclose coverage within the meaning of N.Y. Ins. Law 2601(a)(6) does not include violations of the timely liability disclaimer requirement of N.Y. Ins. Law 3420(d)(2). This dispute arose between Plaintiff, the general contractor in an underlying personal injury action by an employee of Plaintiff's subcontractor, and Defendant, the subcontractor's general liability insurer. Defendant's policy named Plaintiff as an additional insured, extending coverage to Plaintiff for liability related to the "ongoing operations" of the subcontractor and other members of the risk retention group. After Defendant disclaimed coverage Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the policy obligated Defendant to defend and indemnify Plaintiff in the employee's personal injury action. Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 2601(a)(6) does not encompass the liability disclaimer requirement of section 3420(d)(2). View "Nadkos, Inc. v. Preferred Contractors Insurance Co. Risk Retention Group LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division granting summary judgment for Defendant in this products liability action, holding that Defendant failed to carry its burden on summary judgment that the industrial "coke ovens" located in the decedent's workplace were not "products" for purposes of strict products liability such that Defendant did not have a duty to warn of their harmful nature. The decedent worked as a coke oven "lid man" for almost thirty years. A coke oven burns coal at high temperatures to create coke, a fuel formerly used in the production of steel. The decedent's estate commenced this action alleging that the decedent's cancer was proximately caused, at least in part, by his exposure to the coke oven emissions at Defendant's plant. Supreme Court denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that coke ovens were products and thus subjected Defendant to strict liability as a products manufacturer. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that a coke oven did not constitute a product for purposes of Plaintiff's products liability causes of action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that coke ovens are products within the broader context of common-law principles of assigning a legal duty to warn. View "Matter of Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first degree, and criminal use of a firearm in the first degree, holding that the People failed to meet its burden to establish that the conditions necessary to warrant a missing witness charge were not met under People v. Gonzalez, 68 NY2d 424 (N.Y. 1986). On appeal, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's request for a missing witness instruction, which allows a jury to draw an unfavorable inference based on a party's failure to call a witness who would normally be expected to support that party's version of events. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Supreme Court abused its discretion by declining to give the missing witness charge because the People failed to rebut Defendant's prima facie showing of entitlement to the missing witness charge. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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