Nicholas Marino Obtains Summary Judgment in New York Labor Law Case

In a recent Supreme Court, Queens County case, Foran Glennon partner Nicholas Marino prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on behalf of a property owner client in a New York Labor Law matter.

The plaintiff, who was employed as a laborer with a third-party defendant general contractor, was involved in a workplace accident caused by a partially excavated elevator pit collapse that resulted in significant injuries. He filed suit against the property owner, alleging violations of Labor Law §§240(1), 241(6), 200 and common law negligence. A third-party action seeking contractual indemnification was filed on behalf of the property owner against Plaintiff’s employer.

Before the project commenced, the property owner and general contractor entered into a contract for the renovation, including the construction of a new elevator. The contract made no reference to an obligation to indemnify or procure insurance, however, it referred to a specific set of AIA general conditions, which:

  • Included a broad, legally enforceable indemnification clause with a negligence trigger
  • Required the general contractor to procure insurance on behalf of the owner on a primary, non-contributory basis

While the contract itself was executed, the general conditions document was never signed by either party.

At his deposition, the Spanish-speaking plaintiff testified that a man he believed to be the building superintendent instructed the workers to stand on plywood to perform their work in the excavated pit. These instructions were translated by a bilingual coworker.

Nick filed a motion seeking summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s claims, which sought a finding that the owner was free from negligence as well as a determination that the terms and conditions were properly incorporated into the contract, were enforceable and had been triggered by the accident. Nick argued that the owner exercised no control over the means and methods of the plaintiff’s work, which was the exclusive obligation of his employer.

In opposition, the plaintiff alleged that the purported actions of the building superintendent created a question of fact as to whether the property owner had exercised supervision and control over his work. The general contractor argued if the court considered the general conditions to be incorporated into the contract, their negligence had not been established due to the disputed nature of the accident.

In response, Nick contended that:

  • The translated statement was hearsay that failed to fall within any recognized exception
  • The only building superintendent that could have interacted with the plaintiff was the employee of the non-party property management company
  • The supervisor’s claimed actions regarding the wood plank were insufficient in triggering liability under the Labor Law

The court agreed this translated statement was inadmissible and held that the evidentiary record established that the property owner was free from any active fault and granted the portions of the motion seeking dismissal of the Labor Law §200 and common law negligence causes of action. On this basis, summary judgment was granted on the claim for contractual indemnification.

Nick centers his practice on civil litigation matters, including the defense of landlords and contractors. He is well-versed in defending clients in matters pertaining to New York Labor Law, premises liability, environmental exposure, negligent security and motor vehicle litigation.