Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Colon v. Martin
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's order dismissing Plaintiffs' personal injury action against, among other defendants, the City of New York, based on Plaintiffs' failure to submit to pre-action N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law 50-h hearings, holding that a claimant does not have the right to observe a coclaimant's section 50-h oral examination over the municipality's objection. Plaintiffs served Defendants with a joint notice of claim, arguing that they suffered personal injuries and other damages due to Defendants' negligence. Defendants served separate notices of 50-h hearing, advising that Plaintiffs were required by law to be orally examined concerning their allegations before commencing an action. Plaintiffs appeared for their section 50-h hearings, but their attorney refused to let the hearings proceed unless each plaintiff could be present while the other testified. Defendants rejected Plaintiffs' requested procedure, and no section 50-h hearings occurred. Supreme Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiffs' failure to submit to the section 50-h hearings. Supreme Court granted the motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 50-h does not provide a claimant the right to observe a coclaimant's section 50-h oral examination over the municipality's objection. View "Colon v. Martin" on Justia Law
Rivera v. State
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
Xiang Fu He v. Troon Management, Inc.
The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division reversing Supreme Court's order denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment and rejecting their arguments that out-of-possession landowners are not liable for personal injuries based on negligent sidewalk maintenance where, under lease terms, the lessee agreed to maintain the abutting sidewalks, holding that Defendants were not entitled to summary judgment due solely to the owners' out-of-possession status. Plaintiff sued owners of property in New York City for personal injuries arising from Plaintiff's slip and fall on the ice that had accumulated on the sidewalk abutting the property. The Appellate Division reversed Supreme Court and granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis that the out-of-possession landowners had no contractual obligation to maintain sidewalks. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) section 7-210 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York makes no exception to the general rule that real property owners have a nondelegable duty to maintain City sidewalks abutting their land in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) therefore, Defendants were subject to the nondelegable duty imposed by section 7-210, exposing them to potential liability for injuries allegedly caused by their failure to properly remove snow and ice from the sidewalks abutting their property. View "Xiang Fu He v. Troon Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Henry v. Hamilton Equities, Inc.
In this case involving injuries Plaintiff received from the condition of demised premises the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's order holding that Defendants, owners of the property, were out-of-possession landlords and were entitled to the protection of the general rule that such landlords will not be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on the leased premises. In Putnam v. Stout, 38 N.Y.2d 607 (1976), the Court of Appeals recognized a limited exception to the rule that an out-of-possession landlord is not liable for injuries resulting from the condition of the demised premises where the landlord covenants in the lease or otherwise to keep the land in repair. At issue in this case was whether the exception recognized in Putnam applied to a regulatory agreement between Defendants and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, as guarantor of the mortgage on Defendants' premises. The Court of Appeals held that the exception to the general rule set forth in Putnam was inapplicable to the regulatory agreement at issue in this case and that the general rule that the landlord was not liable for conditions upon the land after the transfer of possession applied. View "Henry v. Hamilton Equities, Inc." on Justia Law
Matter of Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation
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
Fasolas v. Bobcat of N.Y., Inc.
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
Williams v. Beemiller, Inc.
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
In re New York City Asbestos Litigation
In this complaint alleging that Defendants were responsible for causing Mason South’s mesothelioma, from which he died, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division's decision affirming Supreme Court’s denial of Chevron Corporation’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the record was insufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of a release South signed when he settled a 1997 lawsuit he filed against Texaco Inc. and other defendants based on his exposure to asbestos. South worked shipboard as a merchant marine for almost forty years. In 1997, South and hundreds of other plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Texaco and other defendants. Texaco reached a settlement with South and other plaintiffs, and South executed a release. Two decades later, South and his wife filed this lawsuit seeking to recover for South’s asbestos-related disease resulting from his asbestos exposure shipboard. In denying Chevron’s motion for summary judgment, Supreme Court determined that the record did not meet Chevron’s heightened burden under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act and admiralty law to demonstrate that the release foreclosed the claims in the instant lawsuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Chevron had the burden to prove the 1997 release’s viability; and (2) the record was insufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of the release as a matter of law. View "In re New York City Asbestos Litigation" on Justia Law
Mancini v. Services
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board that Claimant was entitled to 275 weeks of additional compensation due to an arm he received during the course of his employment under Workers’ Compensation Law WCL 15(3)(v) (paragraph v), holding that awards for additional compensation are not subject to the durational limits contained in WCL 15(3)(w) (paragraph w). Paragraph v permits certain permanently partially disabled workers who have exhausted their schedule awards to apply for additional compensation. Claimant did just that and was awarded additional compensation. On appeal, Claimant argued that paragraph v incorporates only paragraph w’s formula for calculating the weekly payment amount and not paragraph w’s durational component setting forth the number of weeks that sum is paid. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed, holding that under the plain language of paragraph v, additional compensation awards are calculated pursuant to the formula and durational provisions of paragraph w. View "Mancini v. Services" on Justia Law
Stega v. New York Downtown Hospital
The Court of Appeals held that whether an absolute privilege applies to a communication made in the course of a quasi-judicial proceeding depends on the status of the subject of the communication. New York Downtown Hospital terminated the employment of Plaintiff, a medical scientist, and removed her as chairperson of the hospital’s Institutional Review Board. Dr. Steven Friedman’s statements to the FDA during an investigation of Downtown Hospital’s IRBs about Plaintiff, which discussed the reasons for the removal of Plaintiff from her positions, were published in an Establishment Inspection Report (EIR) released by the FDA. Plaintiff commenced this defamation action against Downtown Hospital, Friedman, and others, asserting that her professional reputation was damaged by the publication of defamatory statements about her made by Friedman to the FDA inspectors. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Supreme Court allowed Plaintiff’s defamation claim against Downtown Hospital and Friedman to survive, concluding that the statements were not shielded by an absolute privilege because the FDA’s investigation had none of the indicia of a quasi-judicial proceeding. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the complained-of statements were made in a quasi-judicial context in which an absolute privilege protected them. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Friedman’s statements, as published in the EIR, were not protected by absolute privilege. View "Stega v. New York Downtown Hospital" on Justia Law