JUST RELEASED

November Page II

Summaries of recently released decisions to be included in the next issue of the Digest (uncorrected)

CIVIL PROCEDURE

 

Amendment of Summons and Complaint to Fix Misnamed Party Allowed

 

In affirming the Supreme Court’s allowing a summons and complaint to be amended to include a misnamed party [Enigma Management] which shared the same address and counsel and provided the same services as the named defendant, the Third Department wrote:

 

 

The showing required by plaintiffs in support of their motion pursuant to CPLR 305 (c) included "that the intended but misnamed defendant was fairly apprised that it was the party the action was intended to affect [and that it] would not be prejudiced" … .  Here, plaintiffs' proof established, among other things, that service occurred at the shared address of defendant and Enigma Management, defendant and Enigma Management essentially acted as one in asserting identical causes of action against plaintiffs, both claimed to have done laboratory work for plaintiffs, they had the same counsel and they used a variety of names in their billing and correspondence.  There is no prejudice to Enigma Management in permitting the amendment.  MVP Health Insurance Company v Enigma Diagnostic Corporation, 515660, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

 

Sheriff Entitled to Poundage Even If No Money Collected—Execution by Sheriff Triggered Settlement

 

 

The Fourth Department determined the sheriff was entitled to poundage even though no money was actually collected by the sheriff (the execution by the sheriff triggered a settlement):

 

 

The Sheriff …. moved for an order awarding the payment of poundage pursuant to CPLR 8012.  We conclude that the court erred in denying that motion.  “ ‘Poundage is a fee awarded to the Sheriff in the nature of a percentage commission upon moneys recovered pursuant to a levy or [an] execution of attachment’ . . . The Sheriff’s right to receive poundage fees is wholly statutory . . . , and the statute must be strictly construed . . . Under the statute, the Sheriff is entitled to poundage fees ‘for collecting money by virtue of an execution’ (CPLR 8012 [b] [1])” … .  Although it is undisputed that the Sheriff did not actually collect any money, an award of poundage may still be made where, inter alia, “a settlement is made after a levy by virtue of an execution” (…see CPLR 8012 [b] [2]; …). …[W]here, as here, “payment by the debtor is made directly to the creditor after a sheriff levies, the payment constitutes a settlement, and the sheriff will be entitled to poundage” … .  Pursuant to the unambiguous language of the statute, the Sheriff is entitled to $24,500 in poundage based on the settlement amount of $650,000 (see CPLR 8012 [b] [1], [2]). Foley v West-Herr Ford Inc…, 1040, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

CONTRACT LAW

 

Material Breach and Abandonment of Subcontract Waived Notice of Termination and Opportunity to Cure and Warranted Cost-to-Complete Damages

 

The First Department explained the criteria for cost-to-complete damages for a subcontractor’s breach before completion of performance.  The court noted that plaintiff was not entitled to overpayment damages in addition to the cost-to-complete damages because receipt of both would amount to a double recovery:

 

Defendants are entitled to cost-to-complete damages because plaintiff materially breached and abandoned the subcontract, and waived any right to notice of termination or an opportunity to cure. The subcontract explicitly provides that time is of the essence, that plaintiff's delay or failure to meet scheduling requirements warrants termination, and that plaintiff must perform work even if the parties dispute that work's characterization, yet plaintiff repeatedly failed to timely perform and complete work, despite defendant E-J Electric Installation Co.'s repeated demands … . Among other material breaches, plaintiff repudiated the subcontract by abandoning the work site when only 73.49% of plaintiff's work was complete … . Accordingly, plaintiff waived any right to notice of termination … .

It is well-settled that if a subcontractor breaches before completing performance, the contractor is entitled to recover reliance, or cost-to-complete damages from the subcontractor… . Kleinberg Elec Inc v E-J Elec Installation Co, 2013 NY Slip Op 07256, 1st Dept 11-7-13

 

Contract Which Theoretically Could Be Completed in a Year, Even If Highly Unlikely, Survives Statute of Frauds Defense

 

The Fourth Department determined a contract which could possibly be performed in a year, even though such performance is unlikely, survives the statute of frauds defense:

 

…[D]efendants contend that Supreme Court erred in determining that an alleged oral agreement between the parties is not void and unenforceable pursuant to the statute of frauds (see General Obligations Law § 5-701 [a] [1]…).  The alleged oral agreement provided that defendants would purchase plaintiff’s business for $480,000 and make an initial payment of $10,000, followed by 23 monthly payments of $20,000 and a final payment of $10,000.  No party asserted that prepayment of the purchase price was prohibited under the alleged oral agreement.  Plaintiff asserted that she fully performed her obligations under the alleged oral agreement and that defendants made several payments thereunder before defaulting. …

Taking plaintiff’s “allegations as true and resolv[ing] all inferences which reasonably flow therefrom in [her] favor” …, we conclude that the court properly denied the motion.  “As long as [an] agreement may be ‘fairly and reasonably interpreted’ such that it may be performed within a year, the [s]tatute of [f]rauds will not act as a bar [to enforcing it] however unexpected, unlikely, or even improbable that such performance will occur during that time frame” … .  Here, the absence of a term prohibiting payment in full within the first year makes possible full performance of the alleged oral agreement within that year, and thus defendants did not meet their burden of establishing that the statute of frauds renders the alleged oral agreement void and unenforceable… . DeJohn v Speech, Language & Communication Associates …, 1082, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Portions of Covenant Not to Compete Unenforceable/Liquidated Damages Clause Constituted a Penalty

 

The Fourth Department determined a covenant not to compete was ambiguous with respect to the scope of prohibited activity, unenforceable to the extent it attempted to bind third parties, and the liquidated damages clause in the covenant was an unenforceable penalty:

 

…[T]he liquidated damages clause is an unenforceable penalty.  Liquidated damages are enforceable only to the extent that they constitute “ ‘an estimate, made by the parties at the time they enter into their agreement, of the extent of the injury that would be sustained as a result of breach of the agreement’ ” … .  Typically, a liquidated damages clause is enforceable if the stipulated amount of damages “bears a reasonable proportion to the probable loss and the amount of actual loss is incapable or difficult of precise estimation” … .  However, if the clause provides for damages “ ‘plainly or grossly disproportionate to the probable loss, the provision calls for a penalty and will not be enforced’ ” … .   Here, although the amount of actual damages is incapable of precise estimation, the amount of liquidated damages was grossly disproportionate to the probable loss and was designed to penalize plaintiff for his interference with the Agreement, as well as the interference of others with the Agreement.  Moreover, the liquidated damages clause here eliminates the balance due under the Agreement based on minor breaches of the covenant not to compete such that it is an “unconscionable penalty and should not be enforced” … .  Del Nero v Colvin…, 911, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

CRIMINAL LAW

 

References to Counsel Did Not Constitute an Unequivocal Request for Counsel

 

The Fourth Department determined defendant’s references to an attorney did not amount to an unequivocal request for counsel such that questioning should cease:

 

The right to counsel attaches, inter alia, “when a person in custody requests to speak to an attorney or when an attorney who is retained to represent the suspect enters the matter under investigation” … .  Here, defendant did not ask to speak to an attorney at any point during the police interrogation.  Defendant’s statements to the effect that he had an attorney and his questions whether he should have an attorney present were not an unequivocal invocation of the right to counsel … .  Further, defendant failed to “present[] evidence establishing that he was in fact represented by counsel at the time of interrogation, as defendant contended” … .  Although defendant indicated that he had a lawyer in connection with his marital separation, we conclude that the lawyer “was not retained ‘in the matter at issue’ ” … .  Contrary to the further contention of defendant, “the record of the suppression hearing supports the court’s determination that the statements at issue were not rendered involuntary by reason of any alleged coercion by the police” … . People v Henry, 1096, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

 

Criteria for CPL 440.20 Motion Explained/Predicate Offenses Must Run Concurrently

 

 

The Fourth Department noted the trial court applied the wrong criteria to defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.20 to vacate his consecutive sentences and determined defendant’s sentences must run concurrently.  Either the robbery or forgery count could serve as the predicate for the felony assault count and therefore the sentences for the predicate counts must run concurrently with the sentence for felony assault:

 

…[T]he court erred in denying the motion on the ground that defendant could have raised this issue on his direct appeal.  Mandatory denial of a motion pursuant to CPL 440.20 is required only when the issue “was previously determined on the merits upon an appeal from the judgment or sentence” (CPL 440.20 [2]), which in this case it was not … .  The court erred in conflating the provisions of CPL 440.10 with those of CPL 440.20.  The procedural bar set forth in CPL 440.10 (2) (c) “applies only to motions made pursuant to section 440.10, and it is undisputed that the instant motion was made pursuant to section 440.20” … .

 

We agree with defendant that the consecutive sentences for the robbery and forgery counts are illegal under the facts of this case. The indictment and charge to the jury set forth that either count could serve as the predicate for the count of felony assault, and thus the predicate counts must run concurrently with the count of felony assault … .  The sentences imposed on the counts of robbery and forgery must therefore also run concurrently… . People v Povoski, 1050.1, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Shooting Accomplished With Two Weapons Constituted a Single Continuing Offense/Indictment Not Duplicitous

 

Over a dissent, the Fourth Department determined a shooting accomplished with more than one weapon did not constitute two distinct offenses, but rather constituted a continuing offense, and, therefore, the indictment was not duplicitous:

 

It is well established that, “ ‘[w]here an offense may be committed by doing any one of several things, the indictment may, in a single count, group them together and charge the defendant with having committed them all, and a conviction may be had on proof of the commission of any one of the things, without proof of the commission of the others’ ” … .  Contrary to the position of the dissent, we conclude that the evidence at trial established that the multiple shots fired from two separate firearms “constitute[d] a single uninterrupted assault rather than a series of distinct criminal acts . . . , and the assault ‘occurred over a short time frame, without apparent abeyance, and was triggered by a single incident of anger’ ” … .  “The fact that more than one dangerous instrument allegedly was used by the defendant[], and more than one [shot] was [fired] causing the [victim] several injuries, does not transform this single criminal incident into multiple assaults or acts of [reckless endangerment] which must be charged by separate counts” … .  We respectfully disagree with the position of the dissent that there were separate impulses with an abeyance between them.  Rather, the evidence established that defendant assaulted the victim and his fiancée in an attempt to seek revenge for the fiancée’s alleged assault on defendant’s sister. There was one motive and one impulse:  to seek revenge.  We see no distinction between a situation in which an assaulting defendant takes the time to reload one weapon and one in which the assaulting defendant takes the time to obtain a second weapon with the single impulse of continuing the ongoing assault.

 

With respect to the count of reckless endangerment in the first degree, the conduct encompassed by that count was the act of endangering the life of the victim’s fiancée, who was in the vicinity of the victim the entire time defendant was shooting at the victim. “Where . . . a crime by its nature as defined in the Penal Law may be committed either by one act or by multiple acts and can be characterized as a continuing offense over time, the indictment may charge the continuing offense in a single count” … .  Under the circumstances of this case, the crime of reckless endangerment “involved a continuing offense” and could therefore encompass multiple acts in one count without being duplicitous … .  In our view, the fact that the multiple shots were fired from two separate firearms did not transform this continuing offense into two separate offenses.  We disagree with the dissent’s assumption that the fiancée was “potentially out of harm’s way” when she sought refuge in a vehicle during the barrage of gunshots inasmuch as the vehicle was still in the vicinity of the gunshots.  “[R]eckless endangerment is a conduct specific . . . crime,” and here the conduct underlying that count of the indictment was the firing of multiple gunshots in the vicinity of the fiancée … .  We thus conclude that the indictment was not rendered duplicitous by the court’s instruction that the jury could find defendant guilty of the assault and reckless endangerment charges if it found that defendant used either firearm or both.   We reject the view of the dissent that “ ‘there were two distinct shooting incidents’ ” … .  People v Flanders, 963, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Prosecutorial Misconduct Noted (Conviction Upheld However)

 

In affirming defendant’s conviction, the Fourth Department noted its agreement with defendant’s assertions of prosecutorial misconduct:

 

We agree with defendant that it was improper for the prosecutor to remark that a witness was afraid of defendant inasmuch as that was not a fair comment on the evidence … .  We further agree with defendant that the prosecutor improperly used defendants past crimes of violence to suggest that the witness had “a reason to be afraid.”  It is fundamental that the function of crossexamining a defendant about his or her prior criminal, vicious, or immoral acts “is solely to impeach [the defendant’s] credibility as a witness” … .  Nevertheless, we conclude that the prosecutor’s isolated remarks were not so egregious as to deprive defendant of a fair trial …, particularly considering that this was a bench trial… .  People v King, 1135, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

 

People’s Delay In Providing Bill of Particulars Did Not Require Dismissal Under Speedy Trial Statute

 

The Fourth Department determined that the People’s delay in providing a bill of particulars did not require dismissal of the indictment pursuant to the speedy trial statute:

 

…[D]efendant asserted that the People’s bill of particulars was due on January 7, 2009—15 days after defendant’s request (see CPL 200.95 [2])—but that it was not served until August 10, 2009.  According to defendant, the time period from January 7 to August 10, which exceeds six months, constitutes postreadiness delay that should be charged to the People, thus warranting dismissal under CPL 30.30.  We reject that contention. Prior to their failure to serve a timely bill of particulars, the People announced their readiness for trial on the record, and “[f]ailing to serve a bill of particulars is in no way inconsistent with the prosecution’s continued readiness” … .  We addressed a similar contention in People v Runion (107 AD2d 1080), determining that “[t]he court should not have granted the motion made under CPL 30.30 to dismiss the indictment because of the delays of the prosecutor, after she had announced her readiness for trial, in providing discovery materials and in serving a supplemental bill of particulars.  Defendant’s remedies for such delays do not include dismissal under CPL 30.30” (id. at 1080).  People v Griffin, 1154, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Temporary Lawful Possession of Weapon Defense Disproved/Justification Defense in Context of Criminal Possession of a Weapon Explained

 

The Fourth Department determined the evidence was sufficient to disprove defendant’s defense of temporary and lawful possession of a weapon, and explained how the justification defense relates to criminal possession of a weapon:

 

Even if, as defendant contends, he originally acquired the gun by disarming his alleged assailant in the course of a robbery, we conclude that the evidence is legally sufficient to establish that he thereafter possessed it with the requisite unlawful intent … .  After evading his alleged robber, defendant returned to the scene of the robbery with the gun drawn and fired five shots, one of which struck his alleged assailant in the leg. Defendant then regained possession of his property, a duffel bag containing $27,000 in cash, and fled upon the approach of the police. Such conduct is “utterly at odds with [defendant’s] claim of innocent possession . . . temporarily and incidentally [resulting] from . . . disarming a wrongful possessor”… .

 

Defendant further contends that he had no duty to retreat, but was justified in acting as he did, because the People failed to prove that he could have retreated with complete safety.  We reject that contention.  It is well settled that the defense of justification, which involves the “justifiable use of physical force” (Penal Law § 35.05 …), does not apply to criminal possession of a weapon … .  Thus, the “duty to retreat” rule, which applies to the defense of justification in connection with the use of deadly physical force (see § 35.15 [2] [a]), is not relevant here. Nonetheless, justification is relevant to a defendant’s intent in using a weapon.  In other words, “[t]he use of a firearm to engage in conduct that is justifiable under the law is not unlawful.  Thus, an intent to use a firearm against another justifiably is not an intent to use it unlawfully” … .  Here, however, the evidence is legally sufficient to establish that defendant “possessed the firearm with the intent to use it against another unlawfully and not solely with the intent to use it justifiably”… . People v Bailey, 1080, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Conviction Overturned for the Second Time Because of Misconduct by the Same Prosecutor

 

In reversing defendant’s conviction for the second time (after the retrial) because of the same prosecutor’s misconduct, the Fourth Department also concluded there was insufficient evidence of the value of stolen items (cost of items when purchased not enough)) and there was insufficient evidence of possession of a controlled substance (statement that cocaine was smoked by the defendant on a particular day not enough). With respect to the prosecutorial misconduct, the court wrote:

 

Despite our prior admonition on defendant’s first appeal, the prosecutor on retrial repeated some of the improper comments from the first summation and made additional comments that we conclude are improper.  The prosecutor improperly denigrated the defense and defense counsel, repeatedly characterizing the defense as “noise,” “nonsense” and a “distraction[],” and arguing that defense counsel was fabricating facts and attempting to mislead the jury .. .  In one of the more troubling passages in her summation, the prosecutor stated, “You are here for the People of the State of New York versus [defendant] . . . It is not about who isn’t sitting at the defense table, it is about who is.  Are you buying it? Because that’s what they’re selling.  Theories disguised as arguments and posturing as evidence.  And I’m not suggesting the defendant has the burden of proving anything because the burden rests with the People, but by the same token, it doesn’t give counsel license to make stuff up and pretend that it’s evidence.  They all have something in common.  These theories, they’re noise, they’re nonsense.  They want you to be distracted.  Do not be distracted.”

 

In addition, the prosecutor misstated the evidence and the law…, made an inappropriate “guilt by association” argument …, and improperly characterized the case as “about finding the truth and it is as simple as that” … .  Perhaps the prosecutor’s most egregious misconduct occurred when she made herself an unsworn witness and injected the integrity of the District Attorney’s office into the case … .  With respect to a chief prosecution witness, who did not testify at the first trial and who turned herself in on a warrant the day prior to her testimony, the prosecutor stated:  “When she arrived at our offices, she was escorted over to Buffalo City Court because she had a warrant, because that’s what you have to do, and she was released on her own recognizance by the judge.  And let me be very clear here when we talk about promises to witnesses or benefits that they received.  Let me be very clear. Neither myself, nor [the other prosecuting attorney], nor anyone from our office, ever promised her anything in exchange for her testimony” … .  The Court of Appeals condemned similar comments by the prosecutor… . People v Morgan, 942, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Maximum Sentence Deemed Unduly Harsh and Severe

 

The Fourth Department determined the imposition of the maximum sentence for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree (15 years) was unduly harsh and severe:

 

Defendant has no prior felony convictions, and he served four years in the United States Navy, receiving an honorable discharge.  Also, it is undisputed that defendant did not threaten anyone with the weapon or use it in a violent manner. Although we are mindful that defendant’s actions endangered the lives of innocent people, including the police officers who were pursuing his vehicle, we conclude that the maximum punishment is not warranted. We therefore modify the judgment as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice by reducing the sentence imposed for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree to a determinate term of imprisonment of 10 years (see generally CPL 470.15 [6] [b]), to be followed by the five-year period of postrelease supervision imposed by the court. People v Atchison, 1091, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

Representation by Counsel on Unrelated Matter Recently Concluded by Conviction Did Not Preclude Defendant from Validly Waiving Right to Counsel

 

The Fourth Department noted that the representation of defendant by counsel in an unrelated matter which had just been disposed of by conviction did not prevent defendant from validly waiving his right to counsel when interviewed by the police about the instant charge:

 

“Under New York’s indelible right to counsel rule, a defendant in custody in connection with a criminal matter for which he is represented by counsel may not be interrogated in the absence of his attorney with respect to that matter or an unrelated matter unless he waives the right to counsel in the presence of his attorney” … .  However, “[w]hen the prior charge has been disposed of by dismissal or conviction, the indelible right to counsel disappears and the defendant is capable of waiving counsel on the new charge” … .  Here, a police detective testified at the Huntley hearing that defendant had been sentenced on the unrelated criminal case before the detective questioned him regarding these crimes, and County Court therefore properly determined that the police were not precluded from questioning him regarding the instant crimes … .  We reject defendant’s contention that the right to counsel lasted until at least 30 days after sentencing, to allow for the filing of a notice of appeal … . People v Koonce, 1031, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

EDUCATION LAW/ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

 

Bond Resolution for Upgrades to School District Buildings Does Not Constitute a School-District Debt---Petitioner Did Not Have Standing to Challenge School District’s Environmental Impact Determination

 

In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Spain, the Third Department determined that a bond resolution for the upgrading of school district buildings did not violate the school district’s constitutional and statutory debt limit and the petitioner did not have standing to challenge the school district’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) finding that the upgrading did not have a negative environmental impact.  The court held the bonds need not be included in the debt until they are sold, i.e., until the bonds are actually issued:

 

…[F]or purposes of the debt limit, "contract indebtedness" and "existing indebtedness" include only bonds that have been actually issued – i.e., sold – at that time, and exclude the value of bonds that have merely been authorized for future issuance. * * *

…[P]etitioner lacks standing to challenge the School District's SEQRA determination and process … .  Standing, even to raise environmental challenges, is not automatic and must be alleged and, when disputed, proven …; this petitioner failed to do.  To the extent that petitioner relies on the proximity of his property to one of the buildings scheduled for repurposing … to raise an inference of injury sufficient to confer standing, under our decisional law a distance of over 1,000 feet "is not close enough to give rise to the presumption that the neighbor is or will be adversely affected by the proposed project" … .  Further, petitioner failed to alleged or identify any actual injury or direct harm that he will suffer, environmental or otherwise, if the facilities project is undertaken that is distinct from the harm experienced by the general public… . Matter of O’Brien v NYS Commissioner of Education, 515382, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

EDUCATION LAW/PUBLIC HEALTH LAW/PRIVILEGE

 

            “Patient/Visitor Occurrence Report” Not Statutorily Privileged in Malpractice Action Against Hospital

 

The Fourth Department determined Supreme Court properly allowed plaintiffs, in a medical malpractice action, to see a “patient/visitor occurrence report” generated by defendant hospital.  The court noted that the report is subject to the privilege set forth in Education Law 6527 (3), but the hospital did not establish the report was generated in connection with a quality assurance review or a malpractice prevention program:

 

…[T]he hospital failed to meet its burden of establishing that the report was “generated in connection with a quality assurance review function pursuant to Education Law § 6527 (3) or a malpractice prevention program pursuant to Public Health Law § 2805-j” … .  Moreover, with respect to the privilege set forth in Public Health Law § 2805-j, we deem the conclusory statement in the affidavit submitted by the hospital’s director of risk management that “[t]he report was prepared solely and exclusively in connection with the hospital’s malpractice prevention program, as required by statute” to be insufficient to meet the hospital’s burden of demonstrating that the form was actually generated at the behest of the hospital’s malpractice prevention program.  Slayton … v Kolli…, 1083, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

EMPLOYMENT LAW/INTENTIONAL TORTS

 

“At Will” Clause in Employment Contract Precluded Action Based Upon Promissory Estoppel, Fraud and Negligent Representation/Criteria for Tortious Interference With Contract and Prima Facie Tort Not Met

 

The Third Department affirmed the dismissal of a complaint brought by a doctor against the hospital where he was employed and the doctor who supervised him.  The plaintiff was hired pursuant to an agreement which included an “at will” clause allowing termination without cause upon 60 days notice. Plaintiff was terminated upon 90 days notice. Plaintiff sued the hospital for promissory estoppel, fraud, and negligent representation.  Plaintiff sued his supervisor [Hussain] for tortious interference with contract and prima facie tort:

 

Plaintiff's claims against the hospital all required a showing that, among other things, he reasonably relied on any alleged promises or misrepresentations made to him by the hospital … .  In this regard, we note that "[w]here, as here, 'a plaintiff is offered only at-will employment, he or she will generally be unable to establish reasonable reliance on a prospective employer's representations'" … . * * * Inasmuch as any oral assurances made by the hospital as to the security of plaintiff's position could not have altered the at-will nature of the employment contract, the hospital established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the claims against it, shifting the burden to plaintiff "'to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action'”… . * * *

 

… [A] claim of tortious interference with contract requires (1) the existence of a valid contract between a plaintiff and a third party, (2) a defendant's knowledge of such contract, (3) the intentional inducement of a breach of that contract, and (4) damages … .  Significantly, as the contract here was terminable at will, plaintiff was also required to "show that [Hussain] employed wrongful means, such as fraud, misrepresentation or threats[,] to effect the termination of employment"… .No such showing was made here. * * *

 

"[Prima facie tort] requires a showing of an intentional infliction of harm, without excuse or justification, by an act or series of acts that would otherwise be lawful . . . and that malevolence was the sole motivating factor" … .  Considering plaintiff's acknowledgment that Hussain prevented him from examining patients as a result of complaints made by patients who wanted to be treated by Hussain and not plaintiff, plaintiff could not establishthat Hussain's actions were motivated solely by "disinterested malevolence"… . Hobler v Hussain..., 516381, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

 

 

FAMILY LAW

 

Child Qualified as “Special Immigrant”/Abandoned by One Parent

 

In reversing Family Court, the Second Department determined the subject child, Brenda, qualified as a “special immigrant” who could apply for lawful permanent residency in the US because she had been abandoned by one (not both) of her parents:

 

Pursuant to 8 USC § 1101(a)(27)(J) (as amended by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, Pub L 110-457, 122 US Stat 5044) and 8 CFR 204.11, a "special immigrant" is a resident alien who, inter alia, is under 21 years of age, is unmarried, and has been legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an individual appointed by a State or juvenile court. Additionally, for a juvenile to qualify for special immigrant juvenile status, a court must find that reunification of the juvenile with one or both of the juvenile's parents is not viable due to parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law (see 8 USC § 1101[a][27][J][i]…), and that it would not be in the juvenile's best interests to be returned to his or her native country or country of last habitual residence (see 8 USC § 1101[a][27][J][ii]; 8 CFR 204.11[c][6]…).

 

Brenda is under the age of 21 and unmarried. Inasmuch as the Family Court placed Brenda under her mother's custody, Brenda has been "legally committed to, or placed under the custody of . . . an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court" within the meaning of 8 USC § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i)…). Based upon our independent factual review, we find that the record, which includes a detailed affidavit from Brenda, fully supports Brenda's contention that, because her father neglected and abandoned her, reunification with her father is not a viable option … . Contrary to the Family Court's determination, the fact that Brenda's mother did not also neglect and abandon her does not preclude the issuance of the order requested … . Lastly, the record reflects that it would not be in Brenda's best interests to be returned to El Salvador… .  Matter of Maria PEA v Sergio AGG, 2013 NY Slip Op 07168, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

For a similar case with the same result, see Matter of Karen C, 2013 NY Slip Op 07170, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

Burden of Proof for Relocation with Child Not Met

 

In reversing Family Court, the Second Department determined there was not a sound and substantial basis for granting the mother’s request to return to South Africa with the couple’s child.  The court explained the analytical criteria for relocation:

 

A parent seeking to relocate with a child bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed move would be in the child's best interests … . In determining whether relocation is appropriate, the court must consider a number of factors, which include "each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the move, the quality of the relationships between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents, the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child's future contact with the noncustodial parent, the degree to which the custodial parent's and child's life may be enhanced economically emotionally and educationally by the move, and the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements"… . In assessing these factors, "no single factor should be treated as dispositive or given such disproportionate weight as to predetermine the outcome" … . However, "the impact of the move on the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent will remain a central concern" … . "In the end, it is for the court to determine, based on all of the proof, whether it has been established by a preponderance of the evidence that a proposed relocation would serve the child's best interests" … .

 

… [T]he record is devoid of evidence that he has ever harmed the child or directed his anger toward her, and many of the incidents described by the mother involved the father's suicidal ideation and infliction of harm upon himself. Significantly, the court-appointed psychologist found that the father was currently emotionally and mentally stable, and at low risk of neglectful or abusive behavior toward the child. Moreover, the record shows that the mother sought permission to relocate primarily because she feels lonely and isolated in the United States, and not to escape domestic violence … . The record also establishes that the father consistently exercises his right to visit the child twice a week, and that he desires to spend more time with her …. Further, there is no economic necessity for the proposed relocation because the mother has been steadily employed as a payroll analyst for more than six years.  Matter of Francis-Miller v Miller, 2013 NY Slip Op 07177, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

Visitation Details Should Not Have Been Left to Supervising Agency

 

The Fourth Department determined Family Court erred by delegating its authority with respect to the visitation schedule and sibling visits to the agency supervising the mother’s visitation:

 

…[T]he court “erred in failing to set a supervised visitation schedule, implicitly leaving it to the supervisor to determine” … .  By ordering only that visitation “shall take place through the Catholic Charities Therapeutic Supervised Visitation program,” the court improperly delegated its authority to the supervising agency … .  We note in addition that the court erred in merely indicating that “access should include the child’s siblings, if that can be accommodated by the program.”  If the court determined that sibling visitation is indeed in the best interests of the child, the court should specify in its order that the agency or organization designated to supervise visitation must be able to accommodate sibling visits.  We therefore modify the order accordingly, and we remit the matter to Family Court to determine the access schedule and whether sibling visitation shall occur. Matter of Green v Bontzolakes, 1034, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

 

Prior Stipulation Based Upon Inaccurate Information Properly Vacated

 

In a divorce proceeding, the Fourth Department upheld Supreme Court’s vacating the child support and maintenance provisions of a prior stipulation, finding that the wife had not disclosed all of her assets and earnings at the time the stipulation was entered.  The Fourth Department also upheld $50,000 of imputed annual income assigned to the wife by Supreme Court:

 

… [T]he court did not err in vacating the child support and maintenance provisions of the parties’ October 2009 stipulation.  In that stipulation, the parties had agreed to impute income to the wife in the amount of $15,000, and the husband had agreed to maintenance and child support awards to the wife based on that imputed income.  Although “[s]tipulations of settlement are favored by the courts and not lightly cast aside” (…see generally CPLR 2104), “[a] stipulation of settlement should be closely scrutinized and may be set aside upon a showing that it is unconscionable or the result of fraud, or where it is shown to be manifestly unjust because of the other spouse’s overreaching” … .  We agree with the court that “a reasonable inference exists that the [wife did not] fully disclose[] h[er] financial assets . . . , and, as a result, the terms of the agreement were so inequitable as to be manifestly unfair to the [husband]” … . …[T]he wife had over $100,000 more in income than was imputed to her in the stipulation, and her income was more than two times what the husband had earned in any of the years before the stipulation.  We thus conclude that, regardless whether the wife can be said to have committed fraud, the wife’s failure to disclose her earnings in the stock market resulted in an agreement that was manifestly unfair to the husband.  Marlinski v Marlinski, 979, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW

 

Request for Employees’ Names and Addresses Not Allowed Under Balancing Test (Privacy versus Public Interest)

 

The Third Department applied a balancing test to determine whether petitioner’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the names and addresses of employees should be granted.  The petitioner, a union employee, wished to communicate with the employees to ensure that nonunion contractors comply with the prevailing wage law (Labor Law 220).  The court affirmed the denial of petitioner’s request:

 

"FOIL is based on a presumption of access to [government] records, and an agency . . . carries the burden of demonstrating that [an] exemption applies to [a] FOIL request" … .  The personal privacy exemption (see Public Officers Law § 87 [2] [b]) incorporates a nonexhaustive list of categories of information that falls within the exemption (see Public Officers Law § 89 [2] [b] [i]-[vii]).  Where, as here, none of the categories applies specifically, the issue of whether there is an "unwarranted invasion" of privacy is decided "by balancing the privacy interests at stake against the public interest in disclosure of the information" … . * * *

 

An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy has been characterized as that which "'would be offensive and objectionable to a reasonable [person] of ordinary sensibilities'" … .  Petitioner's union desires names and home addresses so that it can contact employees of the nonunion contractor to find out if they were paid as reported by their employer.  The scenario of nonunion employees of a nongovernment employer being contacted at their homes by someone from a union who knows their names, their home addresses, the amount of money they reportedly earn, and who wants to talk about that income would be, to most reasonable people, offensive and objectionable. A significant privacy interest is implicated… . Matter of Massaro v NYS Thruway Authority, 516113, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

INSURANCE LAW

 

Police Officer (a Passenger in a Police Car) Who Was Injured by Underinsured Driver Was Covered By Police-Officer-Driver’s (Private) Underinsured Motorist Endorsement

 

In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Hall, the Second Department determined that a police car is a “motor vehicle” within the meaning of an uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement in a [State Farm] policy held by the driver.  The plaintiff, a police officer, was injured in an automobile accident with an underinsured driver. The question was whether the State Farm policy held by the driver of the police car, another police officer, could be financially responsible under the uninsured/underinsured endorsement in the driver’s policy.  The Second Department held that the driver’s underinsured endorsement covered the injured (police-officer) passenger.  The question at issue was whether the exclusion of “police vehicle” from the definition of “motor vehicle” in Vehicle and Traffic Law 388(2) applied.  The court ruled it did not and determined the operative definition of “motor vehicle” in this context was in Vehicle and Traffic Law 125:

 

Contrary to State Farm's contention, VTL § 125, instead of VTL § 388(2), should be used to define the term "motor vehicle," as it appears in the uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement. VTL § 125 is a general provision that defines the relevant terminology for the entire VTL. In fact, VTL § 388(2) acknowledges this by incorporating by reference the VTL § 125 definition of "motor vehicle." Additionally, it has been recognized that uninsured motorist coverage extends to all "motor vehicles," as defined by VTL § 125 (…Insurance Law § 5202[a]…).

 

Police vehicles fall within the definition of a "motor vehicle" under VTL § 125 because they constitute a "vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power," and they do not fall within any of the exclusions provided in the statute. Thus, the police vehicle at issue here falls within the definition of a "motor vehicle" under the uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement.  Matter of State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co v Fitzgerald, 2013 NY Slip Op 07186, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

Four-Inch Floor-Drop Caused by Insect-Damage Constituted a “Collapse” within Meaning of Policy

 

In finding that the term “collapse” in a home insurance policy included a four-inch drop in the floors caused by insect damage, the Third Department explained:

 

An insurance policy must be interpreted to give clear and unambiguous provisions their plain and ordinary meaning… .  However, "[t]he policy must, of course, be construed in favor of the insured, and ambiguities, if any, are to be resolved in the insured's favor and against the insurer" … .  The policy at issue here specifically covers "physical loss to covered property involving collapse of a building or any part of a building" …, but only if such collapse is caused by, among other things, "hidden insect or vermin damage."  While the policy does not define what constitutes a collapse, it provides that a "[c]ollapse does not include settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion."  In this regard, we have held that the term collapse "involves an element of suddenness, a falling in, and total or near total destruction" … . However, "the clear modern trend is to hold that collapse coverage provisions [–] which define collapse as not including cracking and settling – provide coverage if there is substantial impairment of the structural integrity of the building or any part of a building" … . Wangerin v New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, 515723, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

 

Proof of Normal Notification Procedure Sufficient to Demonstrate Defendant Was Notified of Lead-Paint-Injury Exclusion in Policy

 

Over a two-justice dissent, the Fourth Department determined defendant (Donnelly) was notified of an amendment to his insurance policy which disclaimed coverage for injury related to the presence of lead paint (and therefore plaintiff-insurer was not obligated to defend or indemnify defendant in a lead-paint-injury case).  The court also determined that the lead-paint-injury exclusion did not violate public policy. With respect to the proof defendant was notified of the amendment, the court deemed evidence of the usual notification procedure sufficient:

 

…[W]e conclude that the documents established as a matter of law that the lead exclusion was properly added to Donnelly’s insurance policy and that Donnelly was notified of that amendment.  Although plaintiff did not submit evidence that the notice of the amendment was mailed to Donnelly and Donnelly could not recall receiving the notice, plaintiff submitted evidence in admissible form “of a standard office practice or procedure designed to ensure that items are properly addressed and mailed,” thereby giving rise to a presumption that Donnelly received the notice … .  …[T]he evidence submitted by plaintiff established that the “office practice [was] geared so as to ensure the likelihood that [the] notice[s of amendment] . . . [were] always properly addressed and mailed” … .  Specifically, the evidence established the procedure used by plaintiff for generating notices whenever an insurance policy was amended, and the documentary evidence established that a notice was generated for Donnelly’s policy during the year in which the lead exclusion was added to the policy. In addition, plaintiff submitted evidence that it placed the notices in envelopes with windows so that the address on the notice was the one used for mailing.  The envelopes were then delivered to the mail room, where they were sealed and the appropriate postage was added. Thereafter, the mail was hand delivered to the post office that was located adjacent to plaintiff’s parking lot. Preferred Mutual Insurance Company v Donnelly…, 857, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

LABOR LAW

 

Failure to Identify Industrial Code Violation in Pleadings Not Fatal/Supervisory Criteria for Labor Law 200(1) Action Explained

 

In reversing Supreme Court, the Second Department determined summary judgment should not have been granted to the defendants on the Labor Law 241(6) and 200(1) causes of action.  Plaintiff was injured when he prevented himself from falling because of a missing plank on a scaffold.  The court noted that the plaintiff’s failure to identify the breach of an Industrial Code provision in the complaint and bill of particulars was not fatal to the 241(6) claim (the allegation of a specific code violation was subsequently provided). And the court explained the criteria for liability under Labor Law 200(1):

 

Although a plaintiff asserting a Labor Law § 241(6) cause of action must allege a violation of a specific and concrete provision of the Industrial Code …, a failure to identify the Code provision in the complaint or bill of particulars is not fatal to such a claim … . The plaintiff's belated allegations that the defendants third-party plaintiffs violated 12 NYCRR 23-5.1(c), 23-5.1(e)(1), 23-5.1(f), and 23-5.3(f) involved no new factual allegations, raised no new theories of liability, and caused no prejudice to the defendants third-party plaintiffs …. The defendants third-party plaintiffs were put on sufficient notice that the cause of action alleging violations of Labor Law § 241(6) related to missing scaffold planks through the plaintiff's bill of particulars and deposition testimony. Thus, they cannot reasonably claim prejudice or surprise. * * *

 

Where, as here, a plaintiff's claim arises out of alleged defects or dangers in the methods or materials of the work, to prevail on a Labor Law § 200 cause of action, the plaintiff must show that the defendant "had the authority to supervise or control the performance of the work" … . "A defendant has the authority to supervise or control the work for purposes of Labor Law § 200 when that defendant bears the responsibility for the manner in which the work is performed" … . "[T]he right to generally supervise the work, stop the contractor's work if a safety violation is noted, or to ensure compliance with safety regulations and contract specifications is insufficient to impose liability under Labor Law § 200 or for common-law negligence"… . Klimowicz v Powell Cove Assoc, LLC, 2013 NY Slip Op 07158, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

LIEN LAW/UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE

 

Bank Was Not a Statutory Lien Law Trustee/Question of Fact Whether Bank Was Aware Funds Were Diverted Lien Law Trust Funds

 

Plaintiff, a subcontractor in an environmental remediation project run by defendant AAA Environmental, sued on behalf of similarly situated subcontractors alleging that the arrangement AAA had with First Niagara Bank violated Lien Law article 3-A.  By that arrangement, each night funds from AAA’s operational account would be transferred to AAA’s line of credit account to reduce the balance. If the amount to be charged to AAA’s operational account exceeded the funds available, funds would be automatically transferred from the line of credit account to the operational account. Supreme Court determined the arrangement violated the Lien Law finding that Niagara Bank had notice the funds were diverted Lien Law trust funds and the bank was not a holder in due course. The Fourth Department disagreed and held Niagara Bank is not a Lien Law statutory trustee and there was a question of fact whether Niagara Bank had notice it was receiving diverted Lien Law trust funds:

 

First Niagara is not a Lien Law statutory trustee under the facts of this case and thus cannot be held liable for a violation of the Lien Law on that basis. “A lender is not a statutory trustee because ‘[n]o one other than an owner, contractor, or subcontractor is designated as a prospective trustee in article 3-A [of the Lien Law]’ ” … .  Although the Court of Appeals has held that a lender may become a statutory trustee when a contractor assigns its right of payment from the owner to the lender as security for a loan and the owner makes payments directly to the lender until the contractor’s debt is repaid …, First Niagara received no such assignment here.

 

…[T]he court erred in determining as a matter of law that it had actual notice that it was receiving diverted Lien Law trust funds, and thus could be held liable under Lien Law § 72 (1).  …

 

…[T]he court erred in applying a constructive notice standard in determining that First Niagara was not a holder in due course, and thus could be liable under Lien Law § 72 (1).  As the Court of Appeals noted in I-T-E Imperial Corp.—Empire Div. v Bankers Trust Co. (51 NY2d 811), “[w]ith the adoption . . . of the Uniform Commercial Code, the concept of notice under [UCC] article 3 (and by analogy under article 4 as well . . . ) has, as we have held in Chemical Bank of Rochester v Haskell (51 NY2d 85), been changed from an objective to a subjective standard, and that change must be deemed to have amended the Lien Law as well” (id. at 813-814…).

 

Furthermore, “[t]he purpose of UCC 3-304 (7)—unique to New York and Virginia—[is] to require that questions of notice . . . be determined by a subjective test of actual knowledge rather than an objective test which might involve constructive knowledge” … . Price Trucking Corp… v AAA Environmental Inc…m 1088, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

MEDICAID

 

Purchase of Life Estate Considered Transfer of Property Requiring Delay of Medicaid Eligibility

 

The Fourth Department upheld the determination that petitioner’s transfer of property within the 60-month look-back period for Medicaid mandated an approximately fourteen-month delay in Medicaid eligibility (petitioner was in a nursing home, seeking payment of the expenses by Medicaid).  The Fourth Department explained the relevant criteria with respect to petitioner’s purchase of a life estate in property previously purchased by her daughter and grandson:

 

“ ‘In determining the medical assistance eligibility of an institutionalized individual, any transfer of an asset by the individual . . . for less than fair market value made within or after the look-back period shall render the individual ineligible for nursing facility services’ for a certain penalty period (Social Services Law § 366 [5] [d] [3]).  The look-back period is the ‘[60]month period[ ] immediately preceding the date that an [applicant] is both institutionalized and has applied for medical assistance’ (§ 366 [5] [d] [1] [vi]).  Where an applicant has transferred assets for less than fair market value, the burden of proof is on the applicant to ‘rebut the presumption that the transfer of funds was motivated, in part if not in whole, by . . . anticipation of future need to qualify for medical assistance’ ” … .  With respect to the specific issue of the purchase of a life estate for less than fair market value, Social Services Law § 366 (5) (e) (3) (ii) provides that “the purchase of a life estate interest in another person’s home shall be treated as the disposal of an asset for less than fair market value unless the purchaser resided in such home for a period of at least one year after the date of purchase.” Matter of Albino v Shah…, 1152, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

MUNICIPAL LAW/EDUCATION LAW

 

Criteria for Taxpayer Lawsuit Against School District for Misuse of Public Property Not Met/Failure to Serve Notice of Claim Fatal

 

In reversing Supreme Court, the Second Department determined that the failure to serve a notice of claim upon the school district (in a tort action) required dismissal and the criteria for a taxpayer suit against the district under General Municipal Law 51 had not been met:

 

Pursuant to Education Law § 3813, a plaintiff commencing a tort action against a school district must serve a notice of claim upon the school district. "Service of a notice of claim is a condition precedent to bringing an action against a school district or a board of education'"… . * * *

 

"A taxpayer suit under General Municipal Law § 51 lies only when the acts complained of are fraudulent, or a waste of public property in the sense that they represent a use of public property or funds for entirely illegal purposes'" … .. Further, to establish "common-law taxpayer standing," a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she is "personally aggrieved by those actions in a manner different in kind and degree from the community generally" and that "the failure to accord [him or her] standing would be in effect to erect an impenetrable barrier to any judicial scrutiny of legislative action"… . Fauvell v Miglino, 2013 NY Slip Op 07150, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

MUNICIPAL LAW/APPEALS

 

Review of Action Brought Under General Municipal Law Section 4 (Re: Unlawful Use of Tax, Water and Sewer Funds) Must Be by Article 78, Not Appeal

 

In an action brought pursuant to General Municipal Law section 4 for an order directing a summary investigation into the financial affairs of the respondents (village, fire department and water board), the Third Department determined the respondents could not appeal Supreme Court’s ordering of the investigation. The petitioners alleged the tax, water and sewer moneys collected may have been corruptly and/or unlawfully expended. The petitioners’ only avenue for court review is an Article 78 prohibition proceeding:

 

This appeal must be dismissed as there is no appeal as of right from Supreme Court's order in this statutory special proceeding directing a summary investigation (see CPLR 5701 [a]; see also CPLR art 4…).   Although certain respondents contend, seemingly persuasively, that Supreme Court is not authorized by General Municipal Law § 4 to direct an investigation against them as they are not a "village" or "town," this Court cannot grant their requested relief in the absence of an appealable order.  We note that respondents could have moved in Supreme Court to dismiss on this ground within the time allowed for an answer; having properly raised this defense as an objection in point of law in their answer, respondents are entitled to pursue summary dismissal of this special proceeding in that court, in the first instance (see CPLR 404 [a]; see also CPLR 7804 [f]; Vincent C. Alexander, Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, CPLR 7804:7 at 673-675).  At this juncture, those claims could only be addressed by this Court in a special proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 in the nature of prohibition, instituted in this Court (see CPLR 506 [b] [1]; 7803 [2]…).  Matter of Village of Victory…, 515205, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

NEGLIGENCE

 

Emergency Doctrine Precluded Action on Behalf of Driver of Car Which Crossed Into On-Coming Lane of Traffic/”Noseworthy” Doctrine Did Not Apply to Reduce Plaintiff’s Decedent’s Burden of Proof

 

The Fourth Department reversed Supreme Court and granted summary judgment to defendant who was struck when plaintiff’s decedent’s on-coming car crossed into defendant’s lane.  The court determined the “Noseworthy” rule (lowering the plaintiff’s burden of proof) did not apply and the emergency doctrine precluded recovery:

 

Under the emergency doctrine, “ ‘when [a driver] is faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance which leaves little or no time for thought, deliberation or consideration, or causes [the driver] to be reasonably so disturbed that [he or she] must make a speedy decision without weighing alternative courses of conduct, the [driver] may not be negligent if the actions taken are reasonable and prudent in the emergency context, provided the [driver] has not created the emergency’ ” … .  It is well established that a driver is “not required to anticipate that [a] vehicle, traveling in the opposite direction, [will] cross over into his [or her] lane of travel” … . 

 

Here, defendants met their initial burden by establishing that the emergency doctrine applied, inasmuch as they established that decedent’s vehicle unexpectedly crossed over into defendant’s lane of travel, defendant had been operating his vehicle in a lawful and prudent manner, and defendant had little time to react to avoid the collision … .  Although “it generally remains a question for the trier of fact to determine whether an emergency existed and, if so, whether the [driver’s] response was reasonable” …, we conclude that summary judgment is appropriate here because defendants presented “sufficient evidence to establish the reasonableness of [defendant’s] actions [in an emergency situation] and there is no opposing evidentiary showing sufficient to raise a legitimate question of fact”… . Shanahan… v Mackowiak…, 1105, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

“Sudden Stopping” and “Emergency Doctrine” Jury Instructions Proper in Rear-End Collision Case

 

Plaintiff was rear-ended by defendant [Dellapenta] on a clear, windy day when blowing snow caused a temporary whiteout. The jury returned a verdict of no cause for action.  The Fourth Department determined the jury was properly given the “sudden stopping” charge and the emergency doctrine:

 

While plaintiff claimed that he was forced to stop due to the actions of the vehicle ahead of him …, Dellapenta testified that plaintiff did not slow down before the whiteout, he did not see any vehicles ahead of plaintiff, plaintiff’s vehicle was completely stopped in the whiteout, he never saw plaintiff’s brake or hazard lights, and plaintiff told Dellapenta after the accident that he stopped because he could not see.  Thus, the issue whether plaintiff “stopped suddenly, without an apparent reason to do so,” was properly submitted to the jury … .

 

We reject plaintiff’s further contention that the court erred in instructing the jury on the emergency doctrine (see PJI 2:14) inasmuch as, evaluating the evidence in the light most favorable to defendants, a reasonable view of the evidence supported the conclusion that a sudden and temporary whiteout constituted a qualifying emergency … .  Although Dellapenta had previously experienced whiteouts … at that location, such experience does not negate the applicability of the emergency doctrine “as to the events in issue in this case” … . Barnes v Dellapente…, 1039, 4th Dept 11-8-13

 

RETIREMENT (FIREFIGHTERS)

 

Collective Bargaining Agreement Subsequently Made Retroactive to Cover Period When it Had Expired Did Not Include Firefighters Hired During the Period the Agreement Had Expired

 

The Third Department affirmed Supreme Court’s determination that newly hired firefighters [hired January 9, 2010] were not eligible, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), for participation in a retirement plan to which they need not contribute a portion of their salary.  The collective bargaining agreement which would have allowed participation in the noncontributory program had expired at the time the firefighters were hired and was made effective retroactively when it was subsequently signed:

 

Petitioners' reliance on the continued effect of the terms of the 2008-2009 CBA is unavailing in light of the recent decisions of the Court of Appeals expressly rejecting the application of the Triborough Amendment to the tier 5 retirement legislation … .  Accordingly, the expired 2008-2009 CBA cannot be considered to have been "in effect" on January 9, 2010 for the purpose of permitting the new hires to qualify for the statutory exception (see L 2009, ch 504, Part A, § 8). 

 

Nor are we persuaded that the 2009-2013 CBA can be considered to be retroactively "in effect" on January 9, 2010, as it was not executed until seven months later in August 2010.  At that time, newly hired firefighters were required by law to contribute to the retirement system (see Retirement and Social Security Law §§ 1201, 1204) and, as a result, the Union and NFTA [Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority] were prohibited from agreeing to a noncontributory retirement plan (see Civil Service Law § 201 [4]; Retirement and Social Security Law § 470).  Moreover, while the Union and NFTA were able to retroactively bind each other to the terms of the 2009-2013 CBA, they were unable to bind third parties such as the Comptroller … . Matter of Buffalo Niagara Airport Firefighters Association v DiNapoli, 515811, 3rd Dept 11-7-13

 

TAX LAW/REAL PROPERTY

 

“Assessor’s Formula” for Determining Property Tax Assessment for Golf Course Approved

 

In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Dickerson, the Second Department affirmed Supreme Court’s approach to the determination of real property tax assessments for a private, not-for-profit golf course.  The country club challenged the tax assessment imposed by the respondents (the board of assessors, et al). After a trial, Supreme Court adopted the assessment method used by the country club’s expert, called the “assessor’s formula,” rather than the respondents’ “triple net lease” method (which had previously been approved by the Second Department).  The opinion has an extensive description and discussion of the valuation techniques used by both experts and ultimately determined there is no reason to rigidly mandate that a particular valuation technique be used in all cases:

 

Contrary to the appellants' contentions, we conclude that there is no basis to categorically preclude the application of this approach [the “assessor’s method] to the valuation of golf courses. Further, under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that the methodology employed by the Country Club yielded a fair market value, and we discern no reason to disturb the Supreme Court's determination on appeal.  Matter of Hempstead Country Club v Board of Assessors, 2013 NY Slip Op 07178, 2nd Dept 11-6-13

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

 

Home Attendant for Elderly Injured Walking from One Client’s Home to Another Was Covered by Workers’ Compensation

 

The Third Department affirmed the determination that a home attendant for the elderly, who was injured walking from one client’s home to another client’s home, was entitled to workers’ compensation:

 

While "injuries sustained during travel to and from the place of employment" are generally not compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law, an outside employee "who does not have a fixed worksite[] may be compensated for injuries sustained in the course of" work-related travel … .  The employer and carrier contend that claimant was not an outside employee, but "[t]he distinguishing feature of outside employees is that they do not work at a fixed location and are required to travel between work locations" … .  The employer here assigned claimant to care for two clients in different locations and, thus, substantial evidence supports the Board's determination that she "became an outside employee when [s]he left" one work site and proceeded to another… . Matter of Bedmark v Caring Professionals Inc…, 515870, 3rd Dept 11-7-13