March 26, 2011

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals

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March 25, 2011.

Civil Procedure, Labor & Employment Law
In the Matter of Madeline Acosta, No. 36
In a dispute over the scope of Correction Law Section 75, dismissal by trial court is modified and affirmed because defendant acted arbitrarily in denying application for security clearance by petitioner where it failed to comply with the requirements of the Correction Law.

Civil Procedure, Intellectual Property, Copyright
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. v. American Buddha, No. 7
In a question involving the scope of long-arm jurisdiction under CPLR 302 (a)(3)(ii) as applied to a federal copyright infringement action, the situs of injury for purposes of determining long-arm jurisdiction is the location of the copyright holder.

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing
The People v. Cornell, No. 119 SSM 61
Conviction and plea of defendant are vacated in the absence of a postallocution motion where the record is unclear that at the time defendant entered his plea, he was aware that the terms of his sentence included a period of postrelease supervision.

Civil Procedure, Health Law, Injury & Tort Law
Goldenberg v. Westchester County Health Care Corp., No. 50
In a a special proceeding on a notice of a late claim for medical malpractice against defendant, judgment of dismissal by trial court is affirmed where ultimate complaint dramatically differed, substantively and materially, from the proposed complaint which the plaintiff filed in the prior, special proceeding.

Government Law, Property Law & Real Estate
In the Matter of Mercedes Casado, No. 32
In a challenge to the validity of two orders of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) making a distinction between low-rent apartments in which there has been no recent vacancy and other apartments, allowing larger rent increases for the former, judgment of trial court is reversed where the RGB has the power to make such distinction.

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing
The People v. Beasley, No. 53
Conviction and sentencing of defendant for possession of a controlled substance in the second degree and other, lesser offenses is upheld where ground for appeal was not properly preserved at trial.

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing
The People v. Kelly, No. 58
Conviction and sentencing of defendant for robbery in the first degree and burglary in the first degree are upheld where a brief, momentary separation of a juror from deliberations was not the type of violation contemplated by the continuously kept together language of CPL 310.10.

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Evidence
The People v. Rodriguez, No. 44
Conviction and sentencing of defendant on charges of manslaughter is upheld where a justification charge was not warranted under the particular facts and circumstances of the case, but warranted on less serious offenses.

June 4, 2010

New York State's Highest Court Upholds Merger of Two Bronx Courts, IDV Courts

In an earlier posting on this blog we reported that on February 23, 2010 a divided Panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, New York Supreme Court ruled in People v. Correa (2010 NY Slip Op. 01533) that the 2004 merger of the criminal courts in the Bronx into a single court with jurisdiction to handle both felonies and misdemeanors is unconstitutional. That Appellate Division ruling has now been overturned by the New York Court of Appeals in a single 6-0 opinion on June 3, 2010 that decided three cases--People v. Correa, People v. Fernandez, and People v. Mack, upholding administrative experiments that have New York State Supreme Court judges presiding over misdemeanor cases as well as felonies within a merged Bronx Supreme Court Criminal Division and an Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court in Brooklyn.

The high court's ruling regarding IDV Courts also applies to 44 other IDV Courts throught the State of New York. that centralizes the handling of all aspects of domestic disputes, including criminal charges, in one court. The judges noted that neither the New York Constitution nor its statutes call into question the legality of either court addressed in this opinion.

See also the following articles which discuss this New York Court of Appeals opinion and its implications:

PEOPLE v. CORREA
Leagle.com
Article VI of the New York Constitution — the Judiciary Article — created a "unified court system for the state" (NY Const, art VI, § 1) and vested the ...

High Court Upholds Merged Bronx Criminal Part, IDV Courts
New York Law Journal
The creation of the unified court system "was prompted in part by the uneven ... it usurped the role of the New York Criminal Court under Article VI, §15, ...

State's highest court upholds merger of two Bronx courts
New York Daily News
"The New York Constitution vests Supreme Court with the power to hear any case that any other court in the (Unified Court System) could hear," Judge ...

Ruling Averts Chaos in Bronx Courts - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com
By By SAM DOLNICK
New York's highest court ruled Thursday that a 2004 merger of the Bronx's Criminal Court and Supreme Court was constitutional, overruling a lower court decision that the state's former chief judge had overstepped her bounds. The decision averted the chaos ... “We hold that the administrators of the unified court system were empowered under our State Constitution and the judiciary law to adopt these rules,” the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled Thursday. ...

May 10, 2010

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York State Court of Appeals

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May 6, 2010

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, CIVIL PROCEDURE, CLASS ACTIONS, FAMILY LAW, GOVERNMENT LAW
City of N.Y. v. Maul, No. 65
In an action concerning the alleged failures of the New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) and the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) to fulfill their statutory and regulatory duties with respect to certain children in ACS's foster care system, the appellate division's order affirming the trial court's order certifying a class is affirmed where the appellate division identified four common allegations that transcended and predominated over any individual matters, which tended to establish a de facto policy followed by ACS of delaying the receipt of services as a result of its practices.

CIVIL RIGHTS, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Zakrzewska v. The New School, No. 62
In an action asserting claims for sexual harassment and retaliation under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), in which the Second Circuit certified to the Court of Appeals the question of whether the affirmative defense to employer liability articulated in Faragher v City of Boca Raton, 524 US 775 (1998) and Burlington Industries, Inc. v Ellerth, 524 US 742 (1998) applied to sexual harassment and retaliation claims under section 8-107 of the New York City Administrative Code, the court responded in the negative where subdivision 13 of section 8-107 of the NYCHRL created an interrelated set of provisions to govern an employer's liability for an employee's unlawful discriminatory conduct in the workplace, and this legislative scheme simply did not match up with the Faragher-Ellerth defense.

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June 11, 2009

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals


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June 11, 2009.

COMMERCIAL LAW, CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW, GOVERNMENT LAW, HEALTH LAW
New York v. Smokes-Spirits.com, Inc., No. 92
The Court of Appeals answered the following certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the negative: 1) Does New York City have standing to assert its claims under General Business Law section 349?; and 2) may the City assert a common law public nuisance claim that is predicated on N.Y. Public Health Law section 1399-ll? Read more...

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, FAMILY LAW, GOVERNMENT LAW, JUVENILE LAW
Anonymous v. Rochester, No. 81
In an action claiming that the juvenile nighttime curfew adopted by the City of Rochester is unconstitutional, the dismissal of the complaint is reversed, where the curfew violated the substantive due process rights of minors to enjoy freedom of movement and of parents to control the upbringing of their children.

CONSTRUCTION, INJURY AND TORT LAW
Cunha v. New York, No. 91
In a personal injury action based on injuries sustained by Plaintiff while working at a roadway excavation, judgment for Plaintiff is reversed where, because New York City was only vicariously liable for violating the provisions of the Labor Law at issue, it was entitled to full common-law indemnification from its codefendant, the party actually responsible for the incident.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Decker, No. 102
Defendant's murder conviction is affirmed where: 1) although there had been a 15-year delay in re-indicting Defendant after the charges were initially dropped, the delay was justified by the witnesses' fear of testifying against Defendant; and 2) Defendant was not prejudiced by the delay.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, SENTENCING
People v. Mingo, No. 94
Defendant's rape sentence is vacated where, with the proper foundation, internal documents generated by the District Attorney's office may support a risk level adjudication, but the trial court failed to require such a foundation, and thus the sentencing enhancement applied by the trial court was in error. ..

INJURY AND TORT LAW, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Petrone v. Fernandez, No. 100
In an action claiming that a dog at Defendant apartment complex owner's property injured Plaintiff, summary judgment for Defendant is affirmed, where Defendant did not own the dog and had no reason to know of the dog's vicious propensities.


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May 13, 2009

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals

May 12, 2009

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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, GOVERNMENT BENEFITS, HEALTH LAW
Khrapunskiy v. Doar, No. 52
In an action by disabled legal resident aliens who were ineligible for SSI payments due to their non-citizenship, judgment for Plaintiffs is reversed, where Article XVII of the New York Constitution does not compel the state to assume the federal government's obligation when a disabled person becomes ineligible for SSI benefits.

CONSTRUCTION, INJURY AND TORT LAW, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW, PRODUCT LIABILITY
Misicki v. Caradonna, No. 68
In an action under N.Y. Labor Law section 241(6) for injuries Plaintiff construction worker suffered while working, summary judgment for Defendant is reversed, where Plaintiff adequately alleged that the tool his supervisor directed him to use lacked a proper handle and that Defendant had actual notice of the defect.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Weaver, No. 53
Defendant's burglary conviction is reversed, where the police violated Article I, Section 12 of the New York Constitution by conducting a warrantless surveillance of Defendant's vehicle for several months, because Defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle.

DEBT COLLECTION, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Gletzer v. Harris, No. 66
In an action by mortgage lenders seeking a determination of superiority of their liens, judgment for Plaintiff is affirmed, where a renewal lien secured pursuant to NY CPLR section 5014 for a second 10-year period cannot take effect nunc pro tunc on the expiration date of the original lien, cutting off the property interests of intervening mortgagees.

April 3, 2009

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals

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ATTORNEY'S FEES, INSURANCE LAW
LMK Psych. Servs., P.C. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., No. 31
In an action for no-fault insurance proceeds, the attorneys' fee award in favor of Plaintiffs is reversed, where: 1) attorneys' fees in an insurance claim are to be calculated based on the aggregate of all bills for each insured; and 2) an insurer who issues a proper and timely denial is entitled to tolling with regard to interest on the claim.

CONSTRUCTION, INJURY AND TORT LAW, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Kerusa Co. v. W10Z/515 Real Estate Ltd. Pshp., No. 36
In a fraud action stemming from construction defects, the dismissal of the complaint is affirmed where a purchaser of a condominium apartment may not bring a claim for common-law fraud against the building's sponsor when the fraud is predicated solely on alleged material omissions from the statutorily mandated offering plan amendments


INJURY AND TORT LAW, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Ferluckaj v. Goldman, Sachs & Co., No. 45
In a tort action based on Plaintiff janitor's accident while cleaning a building leased to Defendant, the denial of Defendant's summary judgment motion is reversed, where Defendant did not hire Plaintiff's employer and exercised no control over Plaintiff's work. .

PROBATE, TRUSTS & ESTATES, SPORTS LAW
Golden Gate Yacht Club v. Societe Nautique de Geneve, No. 25
In an action seeking to exclude a challenger from the America's Cup yacht race, summary judgment for Plaintiff is affirmed where the phrase "having for its annual regatta" in the trust instrument required a yacht club to hold an annual regatta on the sea prior to issuing its challenge to participate in the race

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February 18, 2009

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals

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February 11,17, 2009.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE
People v. Williams, No. 22mem09
The order of the Appellate Division is affirmed where there is no legal reason to upset the court's exercise of its discretion in allowing the prosecution to use prior convictions to impeach a defendant's testimony.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, INTERNATIONAL LAW
People v. Romeo, No. 7opn09
Reversal of a conviction for manslaughter is affirmed where the People's lengthy post-indictment delay occasioned by delaying their prosecution in favor of a Canadian prosecution violated defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, SENTENCING
People v. Taveras, No. 2opn09
Sentence for a criminal sexual act in the third degree and falsifying business records in the first degree is affirmed where the actus reus underlying the crime of criminal sexual act in the third degree does not constitute a "material element" of falsifying business records in the first degree, thus the Appellate Division correctly held that the sentencing court's imposition of consecutive sentences for these crimes was not in error.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Rouse, No. 8mem09
Order of the Appellate Division is reversed and the indictment dismissed where the People did not satisfy their statutory readiness obligation. .

INSURANCE LAW
In the Matter of the Ancillary Receivership of Reliance Ins. Co., No. ssm2ent09
In an insurance dispute, order of the Appellate Division is affirmed where the Appellate Division did not err in concluding that the insurance company could not rely on an August 1993 letter as the basis to avoid coverage under the claims-made policy.

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December 23, 2008

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York Court of Appeals

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December 18, 2008

CONTRACTS, FAMILY LAW, INTERNATIONAL LAW

Kipnis v. Kipnis, No. 213

A prenuptial agreement executed under French law is enforceable in New York and prohibits wife from claiming portion of husband's separate property.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, SENTENCING

People v. Mills, No. 207, 208

In order to qualify for resentencing under the Drug Law Reform Act of 2005, class A-II felony drug offenders must not be eligible for parole within three years of their resentencing applications. Once a defendant has been released to parole supervision for a class A-II drug felony conviction, he no longer qualifies for resentencing for that particular conviction under the Act. ..

GAMING LAW, SPORTS LAW

In the Matter of Suffolk Reg'l Off-Track Betting Corp., No. 209

Off-Track Betting Corporations cannot credit commissions derived from daytime harness racing against mandated maintenance of effort payments. Racing Law section 1017-a requires that maintenance of effort payments be distributed on a track-by-track (not regional) basis. Racing Law section 1017 requires these Corporations to make dark day payments to their respective regional harness tracks. Read more...

INJURY AND TORT LAW

D'Onofrio v. City of New York, No. 169, 170
Under Pothole Law, City was not liable for injuries of plaintiffs who fell on city sidewalks because the injuries were not caused by sidewalk defects of which City had been given prior written notice. As to first plaintiff, although City had written notice of the sidewalk defect, plaintiff's injury was not caused by that defect. As to second plaintiff, symbol on pothole map was not sufficiently clear to constitute written notice of the sidewalk defect.


December 3, 2008

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York State Court of Appeals

November 25 and December 2, 2008.

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CONTRACTS, ETHICS & PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Moran v. Erk, No. 176
Where a real estate contract contains an attorney approval contingency providing that the contract is "subject to" or "contingent upon" attorney approval within a specified time period and no further limitations on approval appear in the contract's language, an attorney for either party may timely disapprove the contract for any reason or for no stated reason. Judgment for plaintiffs is reversed.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE
People v. Hawkins, No. 175
In consolidated but otherwise unrelated criminal appeals, both convictions are affirmed where defendants did not properly preserve for appellate their challenges to the legal sufficiency of the evidence.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE
People v. Jean-Baptiste, No. 174
Reduction of conviction to manslaughter in the second degree is affirmed where, because the Appellate Division properly applied the present standard for depraved indifference murder, the evidence introduced at trial was not legally sufficient to establish defendant's guilt of depraved indifference murder.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Castellano, No. 173
Order affirmed where defendant's argument that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for depraved indifference murder is unpreserved for this Court's review.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. George, No. 172
Order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, where contrary to the People's contention, defendant properly preserved for our review his challenge to the legal sufficiency of his depraved indifference murder conviction.

INSURANCE LAW, PROFESSIONAL MALPRACTICE
Continental Casualty Co. v. Stradford, No. 180
In an action to determine whether plaintiff-insurer timely disclaimed coverage in defense of two dental malpractice actions on the basis of defendant's non-cooperation, grant of summary judgment to defendants is reversed where issues of fact remain with respect to the timeliness of plaintiff's disclaimer.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, LANDLORD TENANT LAW, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Matter of P'ship 92 LP v. State of New York Div. of Hous. & Cmty. Renewal, No. 221 SSM 38
Order of appellate division is affirmed where: 1) by its terms, the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997 applied to any proceeding that was pending before the Division of Housing and Community Renewal at the time of its enactment, as this case was; and 2) there was ample basis on the record for the conclusion that, in arguing for a higher base rent, the owner had relied on an illusory tenancy.

ATTORNEY'S FEES, CONTRACTS, ETHICS & PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, INJURY AND TORT LAW
Lawrence v. Graubard Miller, No. 76
In a suit arising from legal proceedings surrounding the administration of an estate, denial of a motion to dismiss a law firm's petition seeking to compel the payment of legal fees is affirmed where the question of whether the retainer agreement at issue was unenforceable on the basis of unconscionability, either at the time it was entered into or in retrospect, was a factual one that could not be answered at the pre-answer motion stage

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE
People v. Giles, No. 181
Conviction for burglary and possession of stolen property is affirmed in part and reversed in part where evidence of defendant's commission of prior uncharged burglaries was prejudicial as to the burglary count and required a limiting instruction.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
Matter of Rivera v. Firetog, No. 178
In a CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking to bar a retrial for murder on double jeopardy grounds, petition is dismissed where the trial court appropriately declared a mistrial based on the jury's deadlock after exploring alternatives, and retrial of defendant would not implicate double jeopardy.

INJURY AND TORT LAW, LANDLORD TENANT LAW, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Kopsachilis v. 130 East 18 Owners Corp., No. 177
In a negligence action alleging that the owners of an apartment building failed to light a stairwell during a blackout, denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment is reversed where the statutory requirement that lights in fire-stairs be kept burning continuously was not a strict-liability offense, and defendants could assert a "knowledge and consent" defense contained within the statute.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. MacShane, No. 220 SSM 40
Order of the Appellate Term is affirmed where defendant failed to meet his burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under step one of the three-step protocol in Batson v Kentucky (476 US 79 [1986]).

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Naradzay, No. 188
Convictions for attempted murder in the second degree, attempted burglary in the first degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree are all affirmed over defendant's challenges to the legal sufficiency of the proof supporting his attempted burglary and murder convictions. ..

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Johnson, No. 166
In a child pornography case, the court's application of the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders risk Factor 7, indicating an increased level of risk when a crime "was directed at a stranger," is affirmed over defendant's claim that Factor 7 be interpreted in a way that makes it inapplicable to his case, where the factor's plain language precludes such a result.

LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Helmsley-Spear, Inc. v. Fishman, No. 164
In a nuisance action brought by managers of the Empire State Building against a union that was loudly picketing and drumming outside the property, the private nuisance cause of action is not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as loud drumming is not an "integral part of the legislative scheme" of the NLRA. Matter remanded for consideration of issues raised but not determined

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, GOVERNMENT BENEFITS, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
In the Matter of Gormley v. New York State Ethics Commission, No. 162
Imposition of a civil penalty under Public Officers Law section 73(18) does not require the New York State Ethics Commission to prove that petitioner knew the conduct was prohibited and acted intentionally to violate the statute. Read more...

CIVIL PROCEDURE
Those Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London v. Occidental Gems, Inc., No. 171
Order denying plaintiffs' motion to confirm a special referee's report, which recommended that defendant be compelled to produce a non-U.S. resident for oral deposition in New York and testimony and documents relating to a foreign arbitration in which defendant is not a party, is affirmed where evidence did not support the special referee's recommendation


October 24, 2008

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York State Court of Appeals October 23, 2008

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CIVIL PROCEDURE, CIVIL RIGHTS, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Crawford v. Liz Claiborne, Inc., No. 145
"In a suit under the Human Rights Law alleging that plaintiff's employer discriminated against him based on sexual orientation, reversal of summary judgment for defendants is reversed and remanded where defendants' summary judgment motion was timely under the then-applicable local rule."

CIVIL PROCEDURE, FAMILY LAW, JUDGMENT ENFORCEMENT
Farkas v. Farkas, No. 144
:In an action pursuant to a divorce, reversal of judgments in favor of wife regarding a debt secured by the couple's shares in their co-op apartment, on the basis that wife's submission of a proposed judgment was untimely, is reversed where the prior proposed judgments were not subject to a 60-day time limit on submission"

CONTRACTS, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Episcopal Diocese of Rochester v. Harnish, No. 152
In a suit over the disposition of property claimed by a church which separated from its diocese, summary judgment for plaintiffs is affirmed where defendant-parish church held its real and personal property in trust for plaintiff-diocese, such that upon the parish's separation from the diocese its property reverted back to the diocese.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, SENTENCING
People v. Jenkins, No. 161
In a prosecution for criminal sale of a controlled substance, NY Supreme Court was not compelled to grant defendant specific performance of a plea agreement providing for dismissal of an indictment upon his alleged successful completion of a drug treatment program. .

ETHICS & DISCIPLINARY CODE, ETHICS & PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, PER CURIAM
In the Matter of LaBombard, No. 151
Determination of the Commission on Judicial Conduct finding that petitioner had engaged in serious judicial misconduct and recommending his removal from office is affirmed where petitioner knowingly and intentionally violated the rules governing judicial recusal and presided over cases involving members of his own family.

IMMIGRATION LAW, LANDLORD TENANT LAW, PROPERTY LAW & REAL ESTATE
Katz Park Ave. Corp. v. Jagger, No. 141
In an ejectment action seeking to remove defendant-celebrity from her rent-stabilized apartment, summary judgment for landlord is affirmed where, in the absence of unusual facts, a foreign national who is in the United States on a tourist visa cannot meet the "primary residence" requirement of New York City's rent regulations.

AGRICULTURE, CONSTRUCTION, CONTRACTS, INJURY AND TORT LAW
Brothers v. New York State Elec. & Gas Corp., No. 146
In an action by a forestry worker injured on the job, alleging negligence by his employer for which defendant, which contracted with the employer to perform the work, should be held vicariously liable, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where: 1) a contractual obligation does not necessarily constitute a nondelegable duty in tort; and 2) on the facts of this case, liability could not be extended to defendant.

CONSTRUCTION, CONTRACTS, INJURY AND TORT LAW, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Brooks v. Judlau Contracting, Inc., No. 147
In an action brought by an ironworker for injuries sustained on the job while employed by defendant's subcontractor, dismissal of plaintiff's third-party claim against the subcontractor is reversed where section 5-322.1 of the General Obligations Law allows a general contractor, who has been found to be partially at fault, to enforce an indemnification provision against its subcontractor for that portion of damages attributable to the negligence of the subcontractor, so long as the indemnification provision does not purport to indemnify the general contractor for its own negligence.

CONSTRUCTION, INJURY AND TORT LAW, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Stringer v. Musacchia, No. 158
Plaintiff who was injured while building a shed for an acquaintance while on a hunting trip was not an "employee" covered by Labor Law section 240(1), as he was providing casual, uncompensated assistance to another person with a repair or construction project in an informal arrangement that did not give rise to mutual duties or obligations between them and bore none of the traditional hallmarks of an employment relationship. .

CONTRACTS, EVIDENCE, FAMILY LAW
Graev v. Graev, No. 139
In a suit over the termination of spousal-support payments after husband claimed that wife had triggered a "termination condition" for such payments by cohabiting with another man, judgment in favor of wife is reversed and case remanded where: 1) the word "cohabitation" was ambiguous as used in the separation agreement; 2) neither the dictionary nor case law supplied an authoritative or plain meaning; 3) "cohabitation" does not require changed economic circumstances; and 4) remand was necessary to determine the intent of the parties based on extrinsic evidence.

CONTRACTS, INJURY AND TORT LAW, INSURANCE LAW
Sorbara Constr. Corp. v. AIU Ins. Co., No. 157
In a suit seeking to require an insurer to defend or indemnify an insured, judgment for defendant-insurer is affirmed where: 1) when a policy of liability insurance requires that notice of an occurrence be given "as soon as practicable," such notice must be provided within a reasonable period of time, and failure to give such notice relieves the insurer of its obligations under the contract, regardless of whether the insurer was prejudiced by the delay; and 2) notice provided under the worker's compensation policy at the time of the incident did not constitute notice under the liability policy even though both policies were written by the same carrier.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE
People v. Lucas, No. 148
Conviction for first-degree murder is affirmed over a claim that the indictment was legally insufficient because it "double-counted" the death of the victim by asserting that defendant had killed him in the course of committing a first-degree kidnapping.

October 21, 2008

Findlaw Case Summaries: New York State Court of Appeals

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CIVIL PROCEDURE, ETHICS & PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, PROFESSIONAL MALPRACTICE
Tydings v. Greenfield, Stein & Senior, LLP, No. 154
In a legal malpractice action by the former trustee of a grantor trust against the law firm that represented her in a proceeding to compel an accounting, reversal of dismissal on collateral estoppel grounds is affirmed where: 1) collateral estoppel does not prevent relitigation of a ruling that was an alternative basis for a trial-level decision, where an appellate court affirmed the decision without addressing that ruling; and 2) when a trustee resigns, the statute of limitations governing an action to compel her to account runs from the date the trusteeship is turned over to a successor trustee.

CIVIL PROCEDURE, GOVERNMENT LAW, PER CURIAM
In the Matter of City of Elmira v. Doe, No. 142
In a civil proceeding to vacate a sealing order, appellate court order is affirmed where some of the sealed records were not official records subject to a CPL 160.50 seal.


CONTRACTS, HEALTH LAW, LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW
Goldman v. White Plains Ctr. for Nursing Care, LLC, No. 140
In a breach of contract action arising out of the termination of plaintiff's employment, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where the expiration of a two-year employment contract did not give rise to successive one-year implied contracts when the employee continued working for the employer without a new agreement, but rather converted plaintiff into an at-will employee.

CORP. GOVERNANCE, CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE, MANUFACTURING, SENTENCING, WHITE COLLAR CRIME
People v. Kozlowski, No. 137, 138
In the prosecution of two former Tyco International executives for crimes associated with corporate wrongdoing, defendants' convictions and sentences are affirmed where: 1) the admission of an attorney's testimony concerning certain facts related to a corporate internal investigation did not improperly convey to the jury an opinion regarding defendants' guilt; 2) certain material sought by defendants via a subpoena duces tecum was protected by the qualified privilege covering trial preparation materials; and 3) even if there was an Apprendi violation in the imposition of fines upon defendants, any error was harmless.

CRIMINAL LAW & PROCEDURE, PER CURIAM, SENTENCING
People v. Smith, No. 149
In a sex-offender registration proceeding following defendant's guilty plea to a rape charge, order classifying defendant as a level two sex offender is reversed where the lower court did not adequately set forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law on which it based its decision to assess defendant 20 points under the risk factor pertaining to defendant's relationship with the victim.

September 17, 2008

Recent Decisions of the New York Court of Appeals

To see the most recent New York Court of Appeals slip decisions (September 4 through September 16, 2008) click here.