Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals

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Defendants Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO), and National Grid Electric Services, LLC failed to demonstrate that the actions challenged by Plaintiffs in their amended complaints were governmental in the context of pre-answer, pre-discovery motions to dismiss, and therefore, the intermediate appellate court and Supreme Court properly denied Defendants’ motions to dismiss. In their complaints, Plaintiffs alleged that their property was destroyed by fire as a result of Defendants’ negligent failure to preemptively de-energize the Rockway Peninsula prior to or after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaints pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211(a)(7), contending that their actions were governmental and discretionary as a matter of law, and even if their actions were not discretionary, that Plaintiffs’ failure to allege a special duty was a fatal defect. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts, holding that, given the procedural posture, Defendants failed to establish as a matter of law that they were acting in a governmental, rather than a proprietary, capacity when engaged in the conduct claimed to have caused Plaintiffs’ injuries. View "Connolly v. Long Island Power Authority" on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract and negligence action, the Court of Appeals held that the City of New York was an intended third-party beneficiary of an architectural services contract between Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and Perkins Eastman Architects, P.C. (Perkins) and that DASNY’s negligence claim against Perkins was duplicative of its breach of contract claim. The Appellate Division denied Perkins’ motion for summary judgment on the City’s breach of contract claim, holding that the City had raised an issue of fact whether it was an intended third-party beneficiary of the parties’ contract and denied Perkins’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss DASNY’s negligence claim as duplicative of its breach of contract claim, holding that there was an issue of fact whether Perkins assumed a duty of care to reform in accordance with professional standards that was independent of its contractual obligations. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the City failed to raise an issue of fact concerning its status as a third-party beneficiary, and Perkins’ motion for summary judgment on this issue should have been granted; and (2) under the circumstances, the negligence claim was duplicative of the breach of contract cause of action. View "Dormitory Authority of State of N.Y. v. Samson Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Court of Appeals held that, for purposes of disclosure of materials from Plaintiff's Facebook account, the threshold inquiry was not whether the materials sought were private but whether they were reasonably calculated to contain relevant information. In this personal injury action, Supreme Court granted Defendant’s motion to compel the production of Plaintiff’s entire “private” Facebook account to the limited extent of directing Plaintiff to produce photographs of herself privately posted on Facebook prior to the accident that she intended to introduce at trial and photographs of herself privately posted on Facebook after the accident. The Appellate Division modified by limiting disclosure to photographs posted on Facebook that Plaintiff intended to introduce at trial, whether pre- or post-accident. The Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated Supreme Court’s order, holding (1) the Appellate Division erred in employing a heightened threshold for production of social media records that depended on what the account holder had chosen to share on the public portion of the account; and (2) for purposes of disclosure, the threshold inquiry is not whether the materials sought are private but whether they are reasonably calculated to contain relevant information. View "Forman v. Henkin" on Justia Law

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Where an insurance policy is restricted to liability for any bodily injury “caused, in whole or in part” by the “acts of omissions” of the named insured, the coverage applies to injury proximately caused by the named insured. The Appellate Division denied summary judgment in favor of the insurance company on the issue of coverage after interpreting this policy language as extending coverage broadly to any injury causally linked to the named insured. The court also concluded that an additional insured may collect for an injury caused solely by its own negligence even where the named insured bears no legal fault for the underlying harm. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the language “caused, in whole or in part” requires the insured to be the proximate cause of the injury giving rise to liability, not merely the “but for” cause. View "Burlington Insurance Co. v. New York City Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, for cases commenced before the effective date of the 2015 amendment to the Human Rights Law, the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) permits the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff against the State under the Human Rights Law for sex discrimination in employment by a state agency. In so holding, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division, concluding that the civil action in this case was eligible for an award of attorneys’ fees. Previously, Supreme Court held that attorneys’ fees and costs should not be awarded because the EAJA did not apply “where a plaintiff has recovered compensatory damages for tortious acts of the State and its employees.” View "Kimmel v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anthony Oddo was assaulted by Sean Velentzas, one of the discharged residents of Defendant Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for Jamaica Community Adolescent Program, Inc., a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility. Plaintiff, the boyfriend of Velentzas’s mother, commenced this negligence action against Defendant, asserting that his injuries were solely the result of Defendant negligently releasing Velentzas. Defendant moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, arguing that it owed no duty to Plaintiff. Supreme Court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiff. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant owed no duty of care to Plaintiff or to the public in general because Defendant discharged Velentzas from the program and thus lacked control over him at the time of the incident. View "Oddo v. Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for Jamaica Community Adolescent Program, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by a worker at a facility owned by Suffolk County where Plaintiff took adult education classes. The worker, Larry Smith, had been referred for a potential possession with the lessee of the facility through the County’s “welfare to work” program. Plaintiff brought this action against the County, Smith, and others to recover damages for personal injuries. The County moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care and, in any event, was entitled to absolute governmental immunity for discretionary acts. Supreme Court denied the County’s motion. The Appellate Division reversed and granted summary judgment for the County on the ground of governmental immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted to the County because the County’s referral of Smith was within the County’s governmental capacity and the County did not assume a special duty to Plaintiff. View "Tara N.P. v. Western Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff suffered injuries while traveling on a state highway when a large branch broke off a tree bordering the road, fell through Plaintiff’s Jeep, and struck her on the head. Plaintiff and her spouse, derivatively, brought this action alleging that Defendant, the alleged owner of the property on which the tree was located, was negligent in failing to inspect, trim, and remove the dead or diseased tree. Plaintiff also sued the State, alleging negligence on the part of Department of Transportation employees for failing to properly maintain the trees or warn drivers of hazards along the state highway. Defendant moved for a jury charge directing the apportionment of liability for Plaintiff’s injuries between Defendant and the State. The trial court denied Defendant’s request for a jury instruction regarding apportionment. The Appellate Division modified by reversing the denial of Defendant’s motion for a jury charge on apportionment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the fact-finder may not apportion fault to the State when a plaintiff claims that both the State and a private party are liable for noneconomic losses in a personal injury action. View "Artibee v. Home Place Corp." on Justia Law

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Decedent, the wife of Plaintiff, was walking on a rural road when she was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by one of the Jamison defendants. Plaintiff brought this negligence action against the Jamison defendants and Drumm Family Farm, Inc., alleging that, at the time of the collision, Decedent was assisting a calf owned by the Farm that was loose on the roadway. The Farm moved for summary judgment, arguing that its alleged negligence in allowing the calf to escape or failing to retrieve it did not constitute a proximate cause of Decedent’s death. Supreme Court denied the Farm’s motion. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Farm’s negligence merely furnished the occasion for, but did not cause, Decedent to enter the roadway, where she was struck by the Jamison vehicle. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Farm failed to meet its burden of demonstrating the absence of material issues of fact, and proximate cause was a question for the factfinder. View "Hain v. Jamison" on Justia Law

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Petitioner’s son was hit by a car while attempting to cross an intersection. Petitioner timely served notices of claim on the State, town, and county. Five months after the statutory period for serving a notice of claim had expired, Petitioner served a notice of claim on the School District, alleging that the School District’s sign at the corner of the intersection where Petitioner’s son was struck obstructed the view of pedestrians and drivers and created a dangerous and hazardous condition. Petitioner simultaneously filed an order to show cause for leave to serve a late notice of claim, arguing that he had a reasonable excuse for the late notice. Supreme Court determined that Petitioner should not be permitted to serve the late notice of claim. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the lower courts abused their discretion as a matter of law when, in the absence of any record evidence to support such determination, the courts determined that the School District would be substantially prejudiced in its defense by a late notice of claim; and (2) the lower court improperly placed the burden of proving substantial prejudice solely on Petitioner. View "Newcomb v. Middle Country Central School District" on Justia Law