Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff was working as an employee of DCM Erectors at the 1 World Trade Center construction site when he received a workplace injury. Plaintiff commenced this action against the owner of the premises and the general contractor, alleging violations of N.Y. Labor Law 240(1) and 241(6). Supreme Court denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s section 240(1) claim but granted Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the section 241(6) claim. The Appellate Division modified the order by granting Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the section 240(1) claim and denying Plaintiff summary judgment on the section 241(6) claim. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division by denying Plaintiff’s motion insofar as it sought summary judgment not he issue of liability on his section 240(1) claim, holding that there were triable issues of fact that precluded summary judgment. View "O'Brien v. Port Authority of New York & New Jersey" 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

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Plaintiff sued defendant alleging violations of Labor Law 240(1) and Labor Law 241(6), the latter pursuant to 12 NYCRR 23-3.3(b)(3) and (c) after plaintiff was injured while working on a demolition project on premises owned by defendant. At issue was whether the court's decision in Misseritti v. Mark IV Constr. Co. precluded recovery under labor Law 240(1) where a worker sustained an injury caused by a falling object whose base stood at the same level as the worker. The court held that such a circumstance did not categorically bar the worker from recovery under section 240(1). The court held that, however, in this case, an issue of fact existed as to whether plaintiff's injury resulted from the lack of a statutorily prescribed protective device. View "Wilinski v. 334 E. 92nd Hous. Dev. Fund Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an electrician working on a construction project site, brought a personal injury suit against defendants asserting claims under Labor Law 200, 240(1), and 241(6), and common law negligence. At issue was whether defendants-property owners (property owners) were entitled to common law indemnification from defendant-general contractor (general contractor). The court held that the general contractor's demonstrated lack of actual supervision and/or direction over the work was sufficient to establish that it was not required to indemnify the property owners for bringing about plaintiff's injury. The court also held that the property owner's vicarious liability could not be passed through the general contractor, the non-negligent, vicariously liable general contractor with whom they did not contract. Therefore, the court held that, under the facts and circumstances, the property owners were not entitled to common law indemnification from the general contractor. View "McCarthy, et al. v. Turner Construction, Inc." on Justia Law