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.

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