JUST RELEASED

September Page II

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

NEGLIGENCE

 

Proximate Cause Can Not Be Based Upon Speculation/Many Possible Causes

 

In affirming the grant of summary judgment to the defendant, the Second Department explained that, although proximate cause can be established by circumstantial evidence, it cannot be based on speculation:

 

"Proximate cause may be established without direct evidence of causation, by inference from the circumstances of the accident; however, mere speculation as to the cause of an accident, when there could have been many possible causes, is fatal to a cause of action".. . Belousov v Warnock, 2013 NY Slip Op 05787, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

No Demonstrated Connection Between Stair-Related Code Violations and Injury

 

In affirming the grant of summary judgment to the defendant in a slip and fall case, the Second Department noted that there was evidence the step risers and tread did not meet code requirements, but there was insufficient evidence connecting the defect with the accident:

 

The defendants made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by establishing that the plaintiff was unable to identify the cause of her fall … . In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact. The plaintiff submitted expert evidence that the step risers and treads did not comply with various sections of, inter alia, the New York City Building Code. However, the plaintiff's assertion that these alleged stairway defects proximately caused her accident is based on sheer speculation …, and is, in fact, contradicted by the record. Humphrey v Merivil, 2013 NY Slip Op 05799, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

Question of Fact Raised About Whether Snow-Removal Contractor Created or Exacerbated the Dangerous Condition

 

The Second Department affirmed the denial of summary judgment to a snow-removal contractor (SCS) in a slip and fall case.  The plaintiff fell on a mound of snow between the street and a sidewalk. The court explained:

 

A contractor may be held liable for injuries to a third party where, in undertaking to render services, the contractor entirely displaces the duty of the property owner to maintain the premises in a safe condition, the injured party relies on the contractor's continued performance under the agreement, or the contractor negligently creates or exacerbates a dangerous condition … . SCS demonstrated its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the amended complaint insofar as asserted against it … by demonstrating that the injured plaintiff was not a party to the snow and ice removal contract, and that it did not owe a duty to him … . In opposition, however, the plaintiffs raised a triable issue of fact as to whether SCS's alleged negligence created or exacerbated the hazard which was a proximate cause of the accident… . LaGuarina v Metropolitan Trans Auth, 2013 NY slip Op 05800, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

Not Enough Time Passed to Invoke Constructive Notice of Icy Condition Under “Storm Progress Rule”

 

The Second Department reversed Supreme Court and granted summary judgment to the defendant in a slip and fall case. The court determined not enough time elapsed to invoke constructive notice of the icy condition under the “storm progress rule:”

 

"A defendant may be held liable for a dangerous condition on its premises caused by the accumulation of snow or ice upon a showing that it had actual or constructive notice of the condition, and that a reasonably sufficient time had lapsed since the cessation of the storm to take protective measures" … . "Under the storm in progress' rule, a property owner will not be held liable for accidents occurring as a result of the accumulation of snow or ice on its premises until an adequate period of time has passed following the cessation of the storm, within which time the owner has the opportunity to ameliorate the hazards caused by the storm" … . McCurdy v KYMA Holdings, LLC, 2013 NY Slip Op 05802, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

More than One Possible Cause of Icy Condition Required Grant of Summary Judgment to Defendant

 

The Second Department affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the defendant in a slip and fall case.  The plaintiff alleged that the black ice which caused the fall was the result of water dripping from a gutter on defendant’s property. It had been drizzling for several days prior to the fall and was drizzling on the day of the fall. The court determined the attempt to link the icy condition to the dripping gutter was too speculative to support the action:

 

A real property owner or a party in possession or control of real property will be held liable for injuries sustained in a slip-and-fall accident involving snow and ice on its property only if it created the dangerous condition or had actual or constructive notice of the condition … . "Where the facts proven show that there are several possible causes of an injury, for one or more of which the defendant was not responsible, and it is just as reasonable and probable that the injury was the result of one cause as the other, plaintiff cannot have a recovery, since he [or she] has failed to prove that the negligence of the defendant caused the injury" … .  Morreale v Esposito, 2013 NY Slip Op 05803, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

Gaps in Treatment Precluded “Continuous Treatment Doctrine” in Medical Malpractice Suit---Action Time-Barred

 

The Second Department reversed Supreme Court and granted summary judgment to the defendant in a medical malpractice action finding the action was time-barred because the continuous treatment doctrine did not apply:

 

Although the plaintiffs contend that the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuous treatment doctrine, they failed to raise a triable issue of fact in that regard … . The plaintiffs' decedent received treatment from the defendant over a 17-year period for recurrent bladder tumors. After his initial diagnosis, in 1991, the decedent typically returned for treatment only when he was symptomatic, experiencing hematuria. Thus, between December 1999 and April 2003, and again, from December 2004 until October 2007, the decedent did not visit with the defendant. As a result of these temporal gaps, because the decedent did not continue to seek a course of treatment, any continuity in treatment that had existed was severed … . Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was to dismiss, as time-barred, so much of the complaint as was based upon alleged acts of medical malpractice and lack of informed consent committed prior to December 22, 2006… . Peykarian v Yin Chu Chien, 2013 NY slip Op 05809, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

Summary Judgment Properly Granted to Snow-Removal

Contractor---”Espinal” Exceptions Explained

 

In affirming the grant of summary judgment to defendant snow-removal contractor (Lemp) in a slip and fall case, the Second Department clearly explained the applicable law, including the “Espinal” exceptions to the rule a contractor is not liable to third parties:

 

As a general rule, a limited contractual obligation to provide snow removal services does not render the contractor liable in tort for the personal injuries of third parties … . However, in Espinal v Melville Snow Contrs. (98 NY2d 136, 140), the Court of Appeals recognized that exceptions to this rule apply (1) where the contracting party, in failing to exercise reasonable care in the performance of his or her duties, launches a force or instrument of harm, (2) where the plaintiff detrimentally relies on the continued performance of the contracting party's duties, and (3) where the contracting party has entirely displaced another party's duty to maintain the premises safely.

 

Contrary to the plaintiffs' contentions, the defendant Lemp Landscapers, Inc. (hereinafter Lemp), made a prima facie showing of its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by offering proof that the injured plaintiff was not a party to its snow removal contract with the defendant Woodland Pond Condominium Association (hereinafter Woodland), and that it thus owed no duty of care to the injured plaintiff … . Since the plaintiffs did not allege facts in their complaint or bill of particulars which would establish the possible applicability of any of the Espinal exceptions, Lemp, in establishing its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, was not required to affirmatively demonstrate that these exceptions did not apply … . 

 

In opposition to Lemp's prima facie showing, the plaintiffs offered no evidence to support their contentions that Lemp launched a force or instrument of harm by creating or exacerbating the icy condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff Ernest Rudloff's fall … . By merely plowing the snow in accordance with the contract and leaving some residual snow or ice on the plowed area, Lemp cannot be said to have created a dangerous condition and thereby launched a force or instrument of harm. Moreover, a claim that a contractor exacerbated an existing condition requires some showing that the contractor left the premises in a more dangerous condition than he or she found them … . Therefore, even if Lemp failed to sand or salt the roadway on which the injured plaintiff fell, the plaintiffs have offered nothing more than speculation that the failure to perform that duty rendered the property less safe than it was before Lemp started its work … . Rudloff v Woodland Pond Condominium Assn, 2013 NY Slip Op 05812, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

NEGLIGENCE/MUNICIPAL LAW

 

 

“Professional Judgment Rule” Did Not Preclude Lawsuit/Plaintiff Bitten by Police Dog While Assisting Police in a Search

 

The plaintiff was bitten by a police dog while assisting the police in a search.  Supreme Court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment and the Second Department affirmed, explaining there was a question of fact about whether the “professional judgment rule” applied:

 

"The professional judgment rule insulates a municipality from liability for its employees' performance of their duties where the . . . conduct involves the exercise of professional judgment such as electing one among many acceptable methods of carrying out tasks, or making tactical decisions" … . However, "the immunity afforded a municipality for its employee's discretionary conduct does not extend to situations where the employee, a police officer, violates acceptable police practice" … . 

 

Here, the defendants did not establish their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. A question of fact with respect to whether the conduct of the dog's handler was consistent with acceptable police practice was presented by the defendants' evidentiary submissions … . Accordingly, summary judgment was properly denied … .  Newsome v County of Suffolk, 2013 NY Slip Op 05805, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

NEGLIGENCE/LANDLORD-TENANT

 

Summary Judgment Properly Granted to Out-of-Possession Landlord---Injury Caused by Defect in Floor

 

The Second Department affirmed the grant of summary judgment to an out-of-possession landlord (Hudson).  Plaintiff alleged a defect in a concrete floor caused his injury.  The Second Department wrote:

 

An out-of-possession landlord is not liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on leased premises in the absence of a statute imposing liability, a contractual provision placing the duty to repair on the landlord, or a course of conduct by the landlord giving rise to a duty … . 

 

Here, the Hudson defendants established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the code provisions relied upon by the plaintiff do not constitute statutes imposing liability, that the lease placed the responsibility to repair the floor defect on Kawasaki, and that the Hudson defendants did not, through a course of conduct, assume any duty to repair the alleged defect in the floor… . Volpe v Hudson View Assoc, LLC, 2013 NY slip Op 05814, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

EDUCATION LAW

 

 

Teacher Had Not Acquired “Tenure by Estoppel”

 

In reversing Supreme Court, the Second Department determined a teacher had not acquired tenure by estoppel:

 

"In general, estoppel is a bar which precludes a party from denying [that] a certain fact or state of facts exists to the detriment of another party who was entitled to rely on such facts and had acted accordingly" … . "Tenure may be acquired by estoppel when a school board accepts the continued services of a teacher or administrator, but fails to take the action required by law to either grant or deny tenure prior to the expiration of the teacher's probationary term" … . Although Education Law § 3012(1) provides that certain teachers shall be appointed "for a probationary period of three years," it "does not contain a provision which would prevent a probationary teacher from knowingly and voluntarily waiving the three-year probationary period" … . 

 

Here, as indicated by the petitioner's own letter to the principal, the petitioner agreed to extend his probationary period for an additional year. Consequently, the petitioner's probationary period had not expired when the School District terminated his employment and, thus, he had not acquired a tenured position by estoppel.  Matter of Chishom v Hochman, 2013 NY slip Op 05818, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

APPEALS/CIVIL PROCEDURE

 

“Law of the Case” Doctrine at the Appellate Level Explained 

 

The Second Department explained the “law of the case” doctrine at the appellate level in the context of a Family Court matter:

 

As a general rule, the law of the case doctrine precludes this Court from reexamining an issue which has been raised and decided against a party on a prior appeal where that party had a full and fair opportunity to address the issue … . Review of the mother's contention regarding the prohibition against telling the child that any man other than the father is the child's biological father is barred by the doctrine of law of the case, as this Court has already decided this exact issue on a prior appeal …, and there has been no showing of subsequent evidence or change of law … . Matter of Fulmer v Bisenbaum, 2013 NY slip Op 05819, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

LANDLORD/TENANT

 

Four-Year Statute of Limitations for Rent Overcharge Claim

 

The Second Department explained the four-year statute of limitations for a rent overcharge claim:

 

"A rent overcharge claim, whether made in a judicial or administrative forum, is subject to a four-year statute of limitations" (... see CPLR 213-a; Administrative Code of City of NY § 26-516[a][2]). "[T]he Rent Regulation [*2]Reform Act of 1997 (RRRA) (L 1997, ch 116) clarified and reinforced the four-year statute of limitations applicable to rent overcharge claims (see Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 [Administrative Code of City of NY] § 26-516[a])" …, "preclud[ing] a court from examining the rental history of a housing accommodation prior to the four-year period preceding the filing of the rent overcharge complaint" …, except in situations where there are substantial indicia of fraud. 

 

Here, the DHCR [NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal] properly determined that July 17, 2005, was the "base date" of this proceeding, that is, the date four years prior to the filing of the relevant rent overcharge complaint. The DHCR properly refused to examine the rental history of the subject apartment prior to the "base date," since there is no merit to the petitioner's contention that there were substantial indicia of fraud in connection with the landlord's establishment of the amount of the initial legal registered rent… .  Matter of Watson v New York State Div of Hous & Community Renewal…, 2013 NY Slip Op 05828, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

ARTICLE 78/EDUCATION LAW

 

Student Who Had Been Expelled Could Bring Plenary Complaint Against School, in Addition to an Article 78 Proceeding

 

In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Andrias, the First Department determined that a dental student who had been expelled in a disciplinary action could bring both an article 78 proceeding and a plenary action for damages against the school. The court went through each cause of action in the complaint and allowed a few, including sex discrimination claims, to go forward. (In a previous appeal the article 78 petition re: the expulsion had been granted, finding that expulsion was too severe a penalty.):

 

"Judicial review of an academic institution's disciplinary determinations is limited to whether it substantially adhered to its own published rules and guidelines and whether the determinations are based on a rational interpretation of the relevant evidence" … . Thus, to the extent plaintiff's causes of action are, in essence, a challenge to the determination to expel her, she was only entitled to article 78 review …, and the filing of the article 78 proceeding mandated the dismissal of the plenary action insofar as it raised such claims … . Conversely, to the extent the gravamen of plaintiff's causes of action is not a challenge to the decision to expel her and is not duplicative of the petition's allegations, she is not limited to article 78 review and may seek damages in a plenary action … . Kickertz v New York Univ, 2013 NY Slip Op 05781, 1st Dept 9-10-13

CRIMINAL LAW

 

Criteria for Downward Departure in SORA Proceeding Explained

 

The Second Department explained the criteria for a downward departure in a SORA proceeding:

 

A court has the discretion to downwardly depart from the presumptive risk level in a proceeding pursuant to SORA (see Correction Law article 6-C) only when the defendant makes a twofold showing … . The defendant must first identify, as a matter of law, an appropriate mitigating factor, namely, a factor which "tends to establish a lower likelihood of reoffense or danger to the community and is of a kind, or to a degree, that is otherwise not adequately taken into account by the [SORA] Guidelines" (…see Sex Offender Registration Act: Risk Assessment Guidelines and Commentary at 4 [2006 ed]). Next, the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to support the applicability of that mitigating factor … . In the absence of this twofold showing, the court lacks discretion to depart from the presumptive risk level … . Here, the defendant failed to make the requisite showings. Consequently, the Supreme Court did not have the discretion to depart from the presumptive risk level … . People v Ologbonjaiye, 2013 NY Slip Op 05807, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

 

Mitigating Factor (12 Years Since Release) Did Not Warrant Downward Departure in SORA Proceeding

 

The Second Department affirmed Supreme Court’s refusal to depart downward in a SORA proceeding, even though the fact that defendant had not been convicted of any sex offenses in the 12 years following his release from prison was a mitigating factor not taken into account by the risk assessment guidelines:

 

… [T]he defendant requested that the Supreme Court downwardly depart from his designation as a presumptive risk level two sex offender. In that respect, the defendant demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had not been convicted of any sex offenses in the 12 years following his release from prison, which is a mitigating factor not adequately taken into account by the SORA Risk Assessment Guidelines … . Nevertheless, in light of the grievous nature of the defendant's offense and, thus, the danger he poses to society should he reoffend, the Supreme Court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in declining to downwardly depart from the presumptive risk level (…Sex Offender Registration Act: Risk Assessment Guidelines and Commentary, at 2 [2006]). People v Rivera, 2013 NY Slip Op 05808, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

Obstructing Governmental Administration Conviction Reversed---Police Not Engaged in “Authorized Conduct”

 

The Second Department reversed defendant’s conviction for obstructing governmental administration as against the weight of the evidence. The court determined there was not sufficient proof the police were engaged in authorized conduct at the time of the contact with the defendant:

 

"A person is guilty of obstructing governmental administration when he [or she] intentionally . . . prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference" (Penal Law § 195.05). Thus, a defendant may not be convicted of obstructing governmental administration unless it is established that the police were engaged in authorized conduct … . As determined by the Supreme Court, the initial chase of the defendant by the police was not supported by reasonable suspicion … . Further, in light of the defendant's acquittal by the jury on the charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, which we may consider in conducting a weight of the evidence review … , the evidence, when properly weighed, did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer was performing an official function authorized by law when he tried to disarm the defendant following the chase … . Thus, the record reflects that, when considering whether the People satisfied the "performing an official function" element of the crime of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, the jury failed to give the weight properly due to its credibility finding that the defendant was not in possession of a weapon … .  People v Small, 2013 NY slip Op 05842, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

CIVIL PROCEDURE

 

Refusal to Comply with Discovery Demand Supported Sanction of Dismissal of the Complaint

 

The Second Department determined Supreme Court had properly dismissed the complaint in a medical malpractice action because the plaintiffs refused to identify the mohel who had performed the circumcision of infant plaintiff.  In finding dismissal of the entire complaint an appropriate sanction, the court wrote:

 

"The Supreme Court has broad discretion in making determinations concerning matters of disclosure including the nature and degree of the penalty to be imposed under CPLR 3126" … . "The striking of a pleading may be appropriate where there is a clear showing that the failure to comply with discovery demands is willful or contumacious"… . Further, the court can infer that a party is acting willfully and contumaciously through his or her repeated failure to respond to demands or to comply with discovery orders … .  Silberstein v Maimonides Med Ctr, 2013 NY Slip Op 05813, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

CIVIL PROCEDURE/TRIALS

 

In Personal Injury Case, Court Should Not Have Granted Mistrial When Objection Sustained, Lawyer Admonished and Curative Instruction Given

 

The Second Department reversed Supreme Court’s grant of a mistrial in a slip and fall case.  Plaintiff was injured playing basketball. Plaintiff objected to remarks made by defense counsel in summation which erroneously implied that the doctrine of primary assumption of risk applied.  The trial judge sustained the objection, admonished the lawyer, and gave a curative instruction. After the verdict for the defendant, Supreme Court granted plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial:

 

The Supreme Court erred in, in effect, granting the plaintiffs' application for a mistrial since the court had previously properly sustained objections to the subject summation comments, openly admonished counsel, and provided curative instructions, thereby correcting any possible prejudice resulting from the subject summation comments … . Richardson v City of New York, 2013 NY slip Op 05810, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

FAMILY LAW

 

Maintenance Should Not Have Been Granted in

Absence of Proof of Standard of Living and Need for Maintenance

 

The Second Department determined Supreme Court abused its discretion by awarding maintenance in the absence of evidence of the parties’ standard of living and the plaintiff’s need for maintenance:

 

…[T]he Supreme Court's award of maintenance to the plaintiff was an improvident exercise of its discretion since the award was made in the absence of any evidence of the parties' standard of living during the marriage, and in the absence of evidence that the plaintiff, who is otherwise self-supporting, needs maintenance to sustain his pre-divorce standard of living. Additionally, the defendant's reasonable needs preclude an award of maintenance to the plaintiff. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff should not have been awarded maintenance… .  Lucere v Lucere, 2013 NY Slip Op 05801, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

Grant of Custody to Maternal Grandparents

Rather than Parent Reversed

 

In reversing Family Court’s grant of custody to maternal grandparents, the Second Department wrote:

 

"In a custody proceeding between a parent and a nonparent, the parent has the superior right to custody that cannot be denied unless the nonparent establishes that the parent has relinquished that right due to surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness, or other like extraordinary circumstances" … . "For a third-party nonparent to gain custody of a child, he or she must first prove that extraordinary circumstances exist such that a parent has relinquished his or her superior right to custody" … . "Where extraordinary circumstances are present, the court must then consider the best interests of the child in awarding custody" … .  * * *

 

We agree with the Family Court that the petitioners, the maternal grandparents of the subject children, satisfied their burden of demonstrating the existence of "extraordinary circumstances," necessitating a determination as to the best interests of the children … . However, considering the totality of the circumstances in this case .., we find that the Family Court's determination awarding … custody … to the maternal grandparents is not supported by a sound and substantial basis in the record. The mother's testimony indicated that, at the time of the hearing, she had abstained from drug use for more than 2½ years. The mother's testimony also indicated that there were no recent incidents of domestic violence between her and Tardo [the father of one of the children]. Indeed, the Family Court noted in its order that the mother and Tardo are now "clean and sober," three years having passed between their last instances of drug use and the date of the order, and that "there have been no reports of aggression." The Family Court placed undue emphasis on the forensic evaluation, which was completed almost two years prior to the court's determination. Additionally, while the Family Court did acknowledge the nature of James's wishes, we conclude that the court failed to adequately consider those preferences … . We further note that the attorney for the children supports the mother's position on appeal, at least insofar as advocating for the mother to have joint custody of both children. Matter of Noonan v Noonan, 2013 NY slip Op 05824, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

Child Should Not Have Been Removed from

Foster Parents in Favor of Maternal Uncle

 

In reversing Family Court’s determination the child should move to the home of her maternal uncle rather than remain with her foster parents for adoption, the Second Department wrote:

 

Once parental rights have been terminated, there is no presumption favoring the child's biological family … . Moreover, while the law expresses a preference for keeping siblings together, the rule is not absolute and may be overcome where the best interests of each child lie in residing apart … . Here, as the children never shared a household, the Family Court erred in concluding that this consideration outweighed the benefit to Orianne of remaining in her foster home, where she has resided since infancy … . The record clearly reflects that Orianne has bonded with her foster family, and is healthy, happy, and well provided for … . Accordingly, the Family Court erred in determining that it was in Oriane's best interests to move to the home of her maternal uncle rather than remain with her foster parents for the purpose of adoption, which, the record indicates, is the foster parents' intent… . Matter of Ender MZ-P…, 2013 NY slip Op 05829, 2nd Dept 9-11-13

 

 

 

ARBITRATION

 

Error to Exclude Petitioner from Arbitration Proceeding

 

Although the First Department determined the error was harmless, the court noted that petitioner should not have been excluded from an arbitration proceedings concerning the termination of her employment:

 

The arbitrator exceeded the scope of his authority by excluding petitioner from certain portions of the arbitration proceedings, over her objection, in violation of Rule 23 of the American Arbitration Association's Commercial Arbitration Rules  (see CPLR 7511[b][iii]…). 

 

The exclusion of petitioner from approximately 5% of the proceedings was, however, harmless error, since the result would have been the same had she been present. Petitioner's case rested on her argument that respondents' reasons for terminating her were merely a pretext to avoid paying her what she believed would be very high commissions. Since the evidence presented during petitioner's absences from the proceedings had no bearing on that issue, there is no basis for vacating the arbitrator's finding that petitioner was fired for her repeated, and severe, violations of the conflict of interest provisions of her contract, as well as for her threats against her employer… . Caruso v Viridian Network, LLC, 2013 NY Slip Op 05780, 1st Dept 9-10-13

 

 

 

ARBITRATION/EDUCATION LAW

 

 

Reinstatement of Charge Against Teacher After Dismissal of

Charge in Arbitration Proper/Interlocutory Ruling by Arbitrator was “Final” in Effect/Courts Can Impose Higher Level of Scrutiny when Arbitration Mandated by Statute

 

The Second Department affirmed Supreme Court’s reinstatement of a charge against a teacher (Hogan) which had been dismissed by the arbitrator. The Second Department explained the criteria for court review of an interlocutory ruling of an arbitrator, noting that more scrutiny is appropriate in an arbitration mandated by statute:

 

Initially, we reject Hogan's contention that the petition should have been dismissed because courts do not have the authority to review an interlocutory award dismissing one of the charges in an arbitration proceeding brought pursuant to Education Law 3020-a. As a general rule, a court lacks authority to entertain a petition to review an interlocutory ruling of an arbitrator on a procedural matter … . Here, however, the award sought to be reviewed is not one which involves "only a very limited procedural question" … . Rather, the award dismissed the most serious disciplinary charge preferred against Hogan, and the only one of the three charges which alleged that he was guilty of misconduct. The award is final as to that charge, and, if allowed to stand, would prevent the District from adducing evidence in support of the alleged misconduct at the hearing. Under these circumstances, the award dismissing Charge No. 1 can be viewed as a final determination subject to review under CPLR 7511 … . 

 

Furthermore, the Supreme Court properly granted the District's petition and reinstated Charge No. 1 against Hogan. Where, as here, the obligation to arbitrate arises through statutory mandate (see Education Law § 3020-a), the arbitrator's determination is subject to closer judicial scrutiny than it would receive had the arbitration been conducted voluntarily … . The award in a compulsory arbitration proceeding must have evidentiary support and cannot be arbitrary and capricious … . Matter of Board of Educ of Hauppauge Union Free Sch Dist v Hogan, 2013 NY Slip Op p05816, 2nd Dept 9-11-13