A Two-Justice Dissent Did Not Raise a Question of Law Reviewable by the Court of Appeals; Appeal Dismissed.

Shaw v City of Rochester, 2022 NY Slip Op 05197, Ct App  9-15-22

Hearings Required for Vacating Conviction on “Recanted Testimony,” “Actual Innocence” and “Ineffective Assistance” Grounds.

People v Werkheiser, 2022 NY Slip Op 05188, Third Dept 9-15-22

Landlord Did Not Prove Tenant Abandoned the Leased Premises; Tenant Entitled to Damages for Being Locked Out.

Patton v Modern Asian, Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 05192, Third Dept 9-15-22

Plaintiff’s Expert Should Have Been Allowed to Testify the Slippery Stairs Violated an Industry Custom, as Opposed to a Statute or Regulation.

Martell v Dorchester Apt. Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 05164, Second Dept 9-14-22

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How To Use the New York Appellate Digest

The content of the smaller categories can serve as checklists for the preparation of a case. If you are bringing a Medical Malpractice case, for example, why not browse through all of the decision-summaries in that category before you interview your client? In a few minutes you can survey all the Medical Malpractice issues which have made it to the appellate courts since 2013. You may be able to avoid mistakes made by others. If you are bringing a construction-accident case, browse through the Labor Law-Construction Law category. The hidden pitfalls in that area of the law will surprise you. There are many smaller categories which can be used to jump-start the initial preparation of a case.

There are only three categories which are too large to browse: Negligence, Civil Procedure and Criminal Law. By getting comfortable with the Search function, even these larger categories can serve as “checklists” for case preparation.

Note: Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” Below.

The summaries of the decisions released the week before are here on the Home Page, organized by release date (not legal category) with the most recent releases first. For readers who like to browse through all of last week’s decision-summaries in one place, the “Latest Posts” section (below) provides that service.

The Search Function allows the reader to zero in on the most recent decision-summaries in specific categories. Click on the “All Categories” line in the Search Panel (at the Top of the “Latest Posts” Section on the Home Page and on the right side all other website pages) to reveal the drop-down menu. Choose a category from the drop-down menu and click on “Search.” All the decision-summaries in that category will come up (going back to January 1, 2013), the most recent first.

Similarly, just clicking on any category in the Footer at the bottom of every page will bring up the all the decision-summaries in that category, the most recent first (an alternative to using the Search Panel for this purpose).

For the latest decision-summaries in all categories from a specific court, choose “All Categories” in the first line of the search panel, choose the court from the menu, and click on “Search.” To select multiple courts, hold the “Ctrl” key down and click on the courts. To de-select a selected court, hold the “Ctrl” key down and click on it.

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Click on “Just Released” for more instructions on how to search for the most recent decisions.

Note: Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” Below.

The search function can be used to get caught up on what all the courts have ruled on so far this year, or what any specific court has ruled on so far this year, or what any court has ruled on during any time period, going back weeks, months or years. Just add the “start” and “end” dates to your searches (the third and fourth lines in the search panel on the right side of the page).

In the posts “Just Released,” “Streamlined Research” and “Update Service,” how to do (1) searches in all legal categories, (2) searches in specific categories, (3) searches using keywords and phrases, and (4) searches confined to specific courts, is explained in some detail. Use the “start” and “end” date criteria to confine any of those types of searches to a specific time period.

If, for example, you want to see what the Fourth Department has addressed in the category “Criminal Law” in 2022, click on “Criminal Law” in the drop-down menu in the Search Panel (revealed when you click on “All Categories”), choose January 1, 2022, as the start date, choose today as the end date, click on “Fourth Department” in the Search Panel menu and click on “Search.”

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Note: Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” Below.

The New York Appellate Division database is comprised of over 14,000 summaries of selected decisions released since January, 2013, by all four departments of the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals. All areas of the law addressed by the courts are covered, from Administrative Law to Zoning. See the drop-down menu in the Search Panel at the top of the “Latest Posts” section on the Home Page and on the right side of every other website page (revealed by clicking on “All Categories”) or the Footer on every page for the complete list of covered legal categories.

The database is unique among case-law databases because the decisions have already been selected for their instructive value, studied and analyzed. The summaries of the decisions that make up this database have already been organized and placed in all relevant legal categories. The issues in each decision have already been identified and described in the headings of the summaries. The most instructive portions of the decisions have already been located and are directly quoted in the summaries. Much of the work that ordinarily goes into case-law research has been done before you click on the “Search” button.

Because all the decision-summaries have been organized by linking each one to all relevant legal categories, searches are focused, fast and efficient. Choosing the right category and/or searching for a single strong keyword or a strong phrase (in the “Search by Keywords” line of the search panel) is often enough to bring up most or all of the summaries on that specific topic.

The time it takes to sort through search results, eliminate the irrelevant, and collect the relevant, is drastically reduced because the concise summary-headings describe the issues addressed by each decision.

For instructions on how to use the site as an up-to-date research tool click on “Just Released,” “Update Service,” and “Streamlined Research.”

Note: Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” Below.

Since January, 2013, without interruption, I have been sifting through all the Appellate Division and Court of Appeals decisions released each week, choosing the most instructive for inclusion in the New York Appellate Digest database.

With only two narrow exceptions (attorney-grievance decisions, and no-fault serious-injury decisions) every area of the law addressed by our appellate courts over the past ten years or so is covered in the New York Appellate Digest database (see the footer for the list of covered categories). It is now rare for a completely new or novel legal issue to come up, an indication the 14,000 decision-summaries present a fairly complete picture of the law of New York.

The key to finding what you are looking for in the database is choosing the most relevant legal categories and the best keywords or phrases for database searches. For the basics on searches click on “Just Released,”  “Update Service,” and “Streamlined Research.”

The pages linked to below are offered to provide some idea of the depth of coverage in the database of specific areas of the law and may therefore help in choosing the best categories and keywords for a database search.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW;

APPEALS;

ARBITRATION;

ATTORNEYS;

BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS;

CIVIL PROCEDURE;

CIVIL RIGHTS LAW;

CONSUMER LAW;

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ZONING AND LAND USE.

When a decision is reversed, modified, remitted, reargued, overruled, etc., the summary of any related decision already in the New York Appellate Digest database is NOT flagged.

I have made an effort to summarize every substantive Court of Appeals decision released since January 2013, and every reversal by the Court of Appeals, even if the reversal-decision is not substantive. So a “post-January, 2013” reversal of an Appellate Division decision should be in the “Court of Appeals” portion of the New York Appellate Digest database. Bear in mind, however, a single Court of Appeals decision may reverse more than one lower-court decision. Therefore a Court of Appeals citation in the New York Appellate Digest database may not include all parties affected by a reversal.

The database may not include every reversal by the Court of Appeals (I don’t think I missed any, but …). In addition, a reversal is not the only way a decision can be rendered obsolete. Court of Appeals and Appellate Division decisions may be overruled by the United States Supreme Court (i.e., the Supreme Court’s warrant-requirement for cell-phone-location records). Decisions at both the Court of Appeals and Appellate Division levels sometimes indicate prior contrary rulings should not be followed. One Appellate Division department may expressly disagree with rulings on the same issue made in other departments. Decisions may subsequently be reargued, or remitted before or after appeal, leading to a different result. It is certainly possible that not every decision stemming from the same proceeding has been included in the New York Appellate Digest database.

Therefore, before relying on any decision summarized here, make sure it is good law using the method you trust for that purpose.

Latest Posts

Summaries of Selected Decisions Released September 5 – 16, 2022, by the First, Second and Third Departments, As Well as the Court of Appeals, Are Posted Here (below), Organized by Date Only (Not by Legal Category or Court).

Follow the Directions Below to Pull Up the Decision-Summaries, Including the Summaries Here in the “Latest Posts” Section, by Legal Category and/or by Court.

For the Latest Posts in a Specific Legal Category Use the Search Panel. Click on “All Categories,” Pick the Category from the Drop-Down Menu, and Click on “Search.” A Category Search Brings Up All the Posts in the Database Going Back to January 2013, Most Recent Posts First.

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Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” Above in the “How to Use the New York Appellate Digest” section.

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The Court of Appeals, dismissing the appeal, in a brief memorandum decision, held that the two-justice dissent (which would normally require review by the Court of Appeals) did not present a reviewable question of law:

… [A]ppeal dismissed, with costs, upon the ground that the two-Justice dissent at the Appellate Division is not on a question of law which would be reviewable by the Court of Appeals (see CPLR 5601 [a]; 5501 [a] [1]). The dissent was predicated on an order denying partial summary judgment that did not necessarily affect the judgment from which the appeal was taken (see Bonczar v American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 38 NY3d 1023 [2022]). Shaw v City of Rochester, 2022 NY Slip Op 05197, Ct App  9-15-22

Below is the summary of Bonczar v American Multi-Cinema, Ins. (cited by the Court of Appeals in Shaw, supra):

The Court of Appeals determined the Appellate Division order denying summary judgment in this Labor Law 240(1) ladder-fall case did not “affect the final judgment” after trial. Therefore the order was not appealable to the Court of Appeals:

The 2018 Appellate Division order may be reviewed on appeal from a final paper only if, pursuant to CPLR 5501 (a), the nonfinal order “necessarily affects” the final judgment. “It is difficult to distill a rule of general applicability regarding the ‘necessarily affects’ requirement” … and “[w]e have never attempted, and we do not now attempt, a generally applicable definition” … . That said, to determine whether a nonfinal order “necessarily affects” the final judgment, in cases where the prior order “str[uck] at the foundation on which the final judgment was predicated” we have inquired whether “reversal would inescapably have led to a vacatur of the judgment” … . This is not such a case. In other cases, we have asked whether the nonfinal order “necessarily removed [a] legal issue from the case” so that “there was no further opportunity during the litigation to raise the question decided by the prior non-final order” … .

In resolving plaintiff’s summary judgment motion, the Appellate Division held that factual questions existed as to whether a statutory violation occurred and as to proximate cause, or more specifically as to whether plaintiff’s own acts or omissions were the sole proximate cause of the accident … . That nonfinal order did not remove any issues from the case. Rather, the question of proximate cause and liability was left undecided. The parties had further opportunity to litigate those issues and in fact did so during the jury trial. Bonczar v American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 02835, CtApp 4-28-22

Practice Point: A nonfinal order is not appealable to the Court of Appeals unless it “affects the final judgment.” If questions of fact remain after the nonfinal order is issued, the order does not “affect the final judgment” and is not appealable. Here the nonfinal order was the Appellate Division’s denial of plaintiff’s summary judgment motion. The order left open factual questions resolved at trial. Therefore the order did not “affect the final judgment.”

The Third Department, reversing County Court, determined defendant was entitled to a hearing on her motion to vacate her convictions of predatory sexual assault of a child. Defendant presented affidavits from six witnesses stating the victim had recanted her trial testimony. Defendant’s motion warranted hearings on: (1) the newly discovered evidence (the recantation); (2) actual innocence; and (3) ineffective assistance (failure to present expert evidence to refute the People’s reliance of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome [CSAAS]):

To prevail [the newly-discovered evidence] claim, a defendant bears the burden of establishing that the evidence meets “the following requirements: (1) it must be such as will probably change the result if a new trial is granted; (2) it must have been discovered since the trial; (3) it must be such as could have not been discovered before the trial by the exercise of due diligence; (4) it must be material to the issue; (5) it must not be cumulative to the former issue; and[] (6) it must not be merely impeaching or contradicting the former evidence” … . * * *

… [W]e conclude that the six affidavits, together with the copies of text messages between victim B and some of the affiants,[FN1] were sufficient to warrant the holding of a hearing, such that County Court’s denial of defendant’s motion on the ground of newly discovered evidence in the absence of such a hearing was error … . * * *

… [D]efendant has established her entitlement to a hearing on her claim of actual innocence. “A prima facie showing of actual innocence is made out when there is a sufficient showing of possible merit to warrant a fuller exploration by the court” … .* * *

… [A] defendant may establish that he or she was denied meaningful representation in connection with the failure to call an expert witness by “demonstrat[ing] that such testimony was available, that it would have assisted the jury in its determination or that he [or she] was prejudiced by its absence” … . People v Werkheiser, 2022 NY Slip Op 05188, Third Dept 9-15-22

Practice Point: Here the defendant was entitled to hearings on her second motion to vacate her convictions for predatory assault of the child. She presented newly-discovered evidence (the victim’s recantation) requiring a hearing. Her claims of actual innocence and ineffective assistant (failure to refute the People’s reliance on CSAAS) also warranted hearings.

The Third Department, reversing the plaintiffs’ verdict in this landlord-tenant dispute, determined plaintiffs did not demonstrate defendants had abandoned the leased premises, a restaurant. Therefore plaintiffs were not entitled to recover rent after defendants were locked out by the plaintiffs, and plaintiffs did not submit sufficient proof of the alleged rent arrears (prior to the lockout). Defendants were entitled to recover on their unjust enrichment counterclaim for the value of the personal property which remained in the restaurant after the lockout:

As relating to commercial premises, “a landlord may avail himself or herself of a lease provision permitting reentry upon breach of conditions as long as he or she reenters peaceably” … . Certain evidence indicating abandonment may include failure to pay bills and rent, surrender of keys and physical relocation of business or personal items previously kept at the subject property … . Contrary conduct found not to demonstrate an intent to abandon a premises includes conduct such as leaving commercial equipment on the premises, paying the utilities, paying lump sum arrears, negotiating the sale of the business that included the leasehold and threatening to call the police on a landlord over a lockout … .

At trial, plaintiffs offered limited evidence of abandonment, namely, that plaintiff Martin P. Patton drove by the restaurant several times in May 2018 or June 2018 and observed it was closed and that defendants were behind on rent, although Patton was not exactly sure what days or what times he drove by or the total amount of rent arrears.  In contrast, Chen [the tenant] testified that, although business was declining, he continued to pay the rent and began to contact potential buyers to take over the restaurant and lease. According to Chen, the restaurant operated the day before the lockout and, when he returned the next day to find the locks changed, he called plaintiffs, who did not respond to him, and then he called the police, who generated an incident report. Defendants entered into evidence several photographs of the premises depicting equipment, furniture, powered-on televisions, liquor bottles on display at the bar and other chattel owned by defendants … . Patton v Modern Asian, Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 05192, Third Dept 9-15-22

Practice Point: Here the landlord was unable to prove at trial that the tenant had abandoned the leased premises. The landlord was not entitled to rent for the period before and after the tenant was locked out. The tenant was entitled to recover the value of the personal property remaining on the leased premises after the lockout.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in this slip and fall case was not premature and should have been granted. There was video evidence and photographs depicting an unlawfully disconnected drain pipe which was the source of the ice on the sidewalk:

“Although determination of a summary judgment motion may be delayed to allow for further discovery where evidence necessary to oppose the motion is unavailable to the opponent of the motion (see CPLR 3212[f]), ‘[a] determination of summary judgment cannot be avoided by a claimed need for discovery unless some evidentiary basis is offered to suggest that discovery may lead to relevant evidence'” … . …

… [W]here the icy condition on the sidewalk as well as Sloan’s fall are clearly depicted on a surveillance video and the condition of the drain pipe over time is revealed in photographs of the building, the defendants have offered nothing more than hope and speculation that additional discovery might uncover evidence sufficient to raise triable issues of fact regarding the manner in which the accident occurred, the cause of [plaintiff’s] fall, and their notice of the defective condition of the drain pipe … . Sloan v 216 Bedford Kings Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 05173, Second Dept 9-14-22

Practice Point: Where plaintiff makes out a prima facie case and the defendant doesn’t raise a question of fact, defendant’s mere hope that discovery will provide evidence to defeat plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is not enough to support denial of the motion aa premature.

The Second Department, reversing Family Court, determined the judge should have prohibited mother from filing visitation petitions without leave of court:

The Family Court should not have prohibited the mother from filing petitions for visitation after October 22, 2021, without written leave of the court, since there is no basis in the record to demonstrate that the mother filed frivolous petitions or filed petitions out of ill will or spite … . Matter of Genao-Archibald v Archibald, 2022 NY Slip Op 05166, Second Dept 9-14-22

Practice Point: If there is no evidence in the record that mother previously filed frivolous or spiteful petitions for visitation, the appellate court will reverse a judge’s prohibition of future petitions without leave of court.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff’s expert (Fein) in this stairway slip and fall case should not have been precluded from testifying. Although the expert could not testify the condition of the stairway violated a code or regulation, he could have testified the slippery condition violated a custom in the industry represented by the American Society for Testing Materials standards:

The absence of a violation of a specific code or ordinance is not dispositive of the plaintiff’s allegations based on common-law negligence principles … . Accordingly, a defendant may be held negligent for departing from generally accepted customs and practices even when the allegedly defective condition is in compliance with the relevant codes and ordinances … .

Had Fein been permitted to testify, he could have addressed whether the coefficient of friction of the subject staircase, as measured during his inspection, was a departure from generally accepted customs and practices, and whether the defendants were negligent in failing to correct it … . Fein could have testified as to the American Society for Testing Materials standards, even though the Supreme Court correctly stated that they were not law. Fein could have testified as to whether those standards represented the general custom or usage in the industry, and the jury could have considered any deviation from those standards as some evidence of negligence . Any purported shortcomings in Fein’s testing go to the weight to be given his testimony, not its admissibility … …. [T]he court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the defendants’ motion in limine to preclude the plaintiff from presenting the proposed expert testimony relating to the American Society for Testing Materials standards regarding the coefficient of friction, and the preclusion of this testimony deprived the plaintiff of a fair trial … . Martell v Dorchester Apt. Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 05164, Second Dept 9-14-22

Practice Point: Here in this stairway slip and fall, the expert could not testify the stairway violated any statute or code. However the expert was prepared to testify the slippery condition violated a custom in the industry as represented by the American Society for Testing Materials standards, which may be evidence of negligence. The experts should have been allowed to testify.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant (Simonsen) in this foreclosure action was never given notice to appoint new counsel after his attorney (Sirianni) was suspended and withdrew from the case. Even though, in granting the Sirianni’s motion to withdraw, the court directed defendant to retain new counsel or continue pro se, defendant was never provided with the notice required by CPLR 321(c). Therefore defendant’s motion to vacate the summary judgment order should have been granted:

CPLR 321(c) provides, inter alia, that “[i]f an attorney dies, becomes physically or mentally incapacitated, or is removed, suspended or otherwise becomes disabled at any time before judgment, no further proceeding shall be taken in the action against the party for whom he [or she] appeared, without leave of the court, until thirty days after notice to appoint another attorney has been served upon that party.” “[D]uring the stay imposed by CPLR 321(c), no proceedings against the party will have any adverse effect” … , and “[o]rders or judgments that are rendered in violation of the stay provisions of CPLR 321(c) must be vacated” … . “It lies within the power of the other side to bring the stay to an end by serving a notice on the affected party to appoint new counsel within 30 days” … . The protections of CPLR 321(c) can be waived where the party elects to proceed pro se … . …

This action was automatically stayed by operation of CPLR 321(c) on … the effective date of Sirianni’s suspension from the practice of law. At no point was Simonsen provided, pursuant to CPLR 321(c), with the required notice to appoint another attorney, either by the court or opposing counsel. Moreover, the withdrawal order, which granted Sirianni’s motion pursuant to CPLR 321(b)(2) for leave to withdraw as counsel for Simonsen, had no practical effect as to whether the notice provision of CPLR 321(c) applied to this case … . … [T]he withdrawal order failed to direct service of a notice to appoint another attorney upon Simonsen, and there is no evidence in the record that Simonsen was ever served with a copy of the withdrawal order … . The record is also devoid of any evidence that … Simonsen waived the protections of CPLR 321(c) by electing to proceed pro se. Therefore, the automatic stay was not lifted until Simonsen moved, in effect, to vacate the summary judgment order … . JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Simonsen, 2022 NY Slip Op 05156, Second Dept 9-14-22

Practice Point: As soon as defendant’s attorney was suspended, the foreclosure action was stayed. Even though the court, in its order granting the attorney’s motion to withdraw, directed defendant to retain new counsel or go ahead pro se, defendant was never given notice to appoint another attorney required by CPLR 321. Therefore the stay was not lifted and defendant’s motion to vacate the summary judgment order should have been granted.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff motorcyclist’s motion for summary judgment in this intersection traffic accident case was not premature, defendant’s violation of the Vehicle and Traffic law was negligence per se, and the comparative-negligence affirmative defense should have been dismissed. Plaintiff demonstrate defendant made an illegal left turn in front of him and he could not avoid the collision:

… [A] violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law constitutes negligence as a matter of law … . “The operator of an oncoming vehicle with the right-of-way is entitled to assume that the opposing operator will yield in compliance with the Vehicle and Traffic Law” … . “[A] driver with the right-of-way who has only seconds to react to a vehicle which has failed to yield is not comparatively negligent for failing to avoid the collision” … . …

… [T]he plaintiff’s motion was not premature since the defendants failed to demonstrate that discovery might lead to relevant evidence or that facts essential to justify opposition to the motion were exclusively within the knowledge and control of the plaintiff (see CPLR 3212[f] … ). Higgins v Stelmach, 2022 NY Slip Op 05155, Second Dept 9-13-22

Practice Point: Plaintiff demonstrated defendant violated the Vehicle and Traffic Law by making a left turn in front of plaintiff’s motorcycle. Defendant did not demonstrate discovery would lead to evidence essential to defending the motion for summary judgment. The motion therefore was not premature. Plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment and dismissal of the comparative negligence affirmative defense.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court in this Labor Law 240(1) and 241(6) action, determined Supreme Court properly found plaintiff offered a sufficient reason for making a late motion for summary judgment, i.e., discovery was incomplete at the time the motion was due, but should not have denied the motion on the ground the discovery was not essential to the motion. The discovery dealt with whether plaintiff was engaged in unauthorized work at the time of the accident, which is a defense to Labor Law 240(1) and 241(6) actions:

A party may not move for summary judgment after the deadline to do so has expired, “except with leave of court on good cause shown” (CPLR 3212[a]). As a result, a court may not consider a late motion for summary judgment unless the moving party offers “a satisfactory explanation for the untimeliness—rather than simply permitting meritorious, nonprejudicial filings, however tardy” … . “While significant outstanding discovery may, in certain circumstances, constitute good cause for a delay in making a motion for summary judgment,” the movant must establish that the discovery was “essential to its motion” … . This standard generally requires that the discovery be relevant to resolving disputed issues of fact … . Even if the discovery is essential, good cause for the delay will only exist if the party promptly moves for summary judgment after securing such discovery … . Fuczynski v 144 Div., LLC, 2022 NY Slip Op 05151, Second Dept 9-14-22

Practice Point: Good cause for filing a late motion for summary judgment is demonstrated where, as here, the motion was due before discovery was complete and the discovery is essential to the motion.

The First Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined many of the causes of action in this Labor Law 240(1), 241(6) and 200 action should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff’s decedent, Rosa, was electrocuted when working on live electrical equipment. Rosa’s boss, Cuevas (the building manager), testified he told Rosa not to work on the live equipment until he returned with rubber insulation and shut down the power to the building. Decedent’s daughter, however, testified Cuevas told her Rosa had to do the work with the power on because there was an upcoming inspection. Cuevas’ statement was deemed admissible as a party admission and should have been considered by Supreme Court. The “party-admissions” argument was raised for the first time on appeal:

When “a party raises a legal issue for the first time on appeal, as long as the issue is determinative and the record on appeal is sufficient to permit review, this Court may consider the new argument” … . We may also consider this testimony in our discretion because [defendants] also relied on it in support of their summary judgment motion … . …

… [P]laintiff testified to postaccident conversations that Cuevas had with her when he visited Rosa in the hospital, when he admitted to plaintiff that Rosa had to perform the bus duct work without shutting down the electricity because of the imminently scheduled building inspection, so as not to inconvenience the tenants, and to avoid any complaints attendant to a service interruption, such as a lack of elevator service. Cuevas never denied either having those conversations with plaintiff in the hospital or making those statements…. . In any event, assuming hypothetically that these statements were inadmissible hearsay, they may still be considered as they are not the only evidence in this record that the electricity was not shut down when Rosa performed the duct work … . Rosa v 47 E. 34th St. (NY), L.P., 2022 NY Slip Op 05144, First Dept 9-13-22

Practice Point: Party admissions are not hearsay. A legal issue (here “inadmissible hearsay” versus “party admission”) raised for the first time on appeal may be considered where, as here, the record is sufficient and the issue is determinative.

The Third Department determined the Family Court judge in this custody proceeding should have recused himself because, as an attorney, he had represented the mother years before where custody was adjudicated. The judge did not remember representing mother, but disqualification was required by the applicable statute:

“A judge shall not sit as such in, or take any part in the decision of, an action, claim, matter, motion or proceeding . . . in which he [or she] has been attorney or counsel” (Judiciary Law § 14; see Rules Governing Judicial Conduct [22 NYCRR] § 100.3 [E] [1] [b] [i]). “This prohibition is absolute and establishes a bright-line disqualification rule” … . Although neither the Judiciary Law nor the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct define “an action, claim, matter, motion or proceeding” (Judiciary Law § 14), Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “claim” as “[t]he assertion of an existing right . . . to an equitable remedy, even if contingent or provisional” … .

… [O]ur jurisprudence recognizes that, except in limited circumstances, a parent has an existing and ongoing right to custody of and/or visitation with his or her children … , and it is undisputed that the November 2012 default order and the order on appeal both deal with the custodial arrangement between the same two parents regarding the same three children. Under these circumstances, where the two proceedings involve the same claim of custody, guardianship, or visitation for the same children, we find that Family Court was statutorily disqualified from the instant proceedings … . Matter of John II. v Kristen JJ., 2022 NY Slip Op 05132, Third Dept 9-8-22

Practice Point: It is a bright-line statutory rule that a judge who, as an attorney, represented mother in a custody proceeding is statutorily disqualified from presiding over the same parties in a subsequent custody proceeding.

The First Department, reversing defendant’s assault second conviction, over an extensive two-justice dissent, determined it was reversible error for the judge to refuse to instruct the jury that the defendant did not have a duty to retreat (re: the justification defense). There is no duty to retreat from one’s own dwelling. Here the incident took place in a portion of the housing complex used only by the defendant and the complainant:

Defendant and the complainant lived in a housing complex where they each had a separate room that gave them access to a shared bathroom to which no one else had access. The court should have granted the defense’s request for a jury instruction that defendant, who asserted a defense of justification, had no duty to retreat from the bathroom he shared with the complainant as a matter of law … .

… [T]his bathroom, unlike a hallway bathroom, was accessible only from the respective rooms of defendant and the complainant. As a matter of law, the shared bathroom was a part of defendant’s dwelling, notwithstanding that he shared it with the complainant, as opposed to a common area in the building. Therefore, under Penal Law § 35.15 (2) (a) (i), defendant had no duty to retreat before using deadly physical force to defend himself … .

… [T]he court’s inaccurate instruction that whether the incident took place in defendant’s dwelling depended on the extent to which defendant exercised exclusive possession and control over the area in question could have led the jury to erroneously conclude that the bathroom was not part of defendant’s dwelling because he shared it with the complainant and that therefore defendant had a duty to retreat. People v Delisme, 2022 NY Slip Op 05130, First Dept 9-6-22

Practice Point: In the context of the justification defense to an assault charge, a defendant does not have a duty to retreat from his own dwelling. Here the incident apparently took place in a bathroom used only by the defendant and the complainant. The bathroom was part of defendant’s own dwelling. The jury should have been instructed that defendant did not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined a framed-issue hearing was required to determine whether respondent was entitled to coverage under the uninsured/underinsured motorist (SUM) provision of respondent’s son’s policy. Whether respondent is covered depends upon whether he resides with his son. Respondent alleged he splits his time between residing in New York and residing with his son in Maine. A person may have more than one residence:

The policy contained an uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement (SUM coverage) which defined an insured as, among other things, “1. You or any family member.” The policy defined “family member” as “a person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household.” * * *

The policy conditions the status of an insured relative on whether the relative resides with the named insured. Residency is established by a degree of permanency and an intention to remain, and a person may have more than one residence … . Here, both parties have proposed that it would be reasonable to hold a framed issue hearing, and Elliott [respondent] has raised sufficient facts to warrant one, including that he splits his time between Maine and New York, spends a portion of each year at 22 Huntress Street [Maine] where he keeps personal items and has a bedroom, furnishes the house and landscapes the yard jointly with Zachary [respondent’s son], and holds the only mortgage on the property. Matter of Travelers Home & Mar. Ins. Co. v Barowitz, 2022 NY Slip Op 05131, First Dept 9-6-22

Practice Point: Here whether the injuries to respondent were covered by an uninsured/underinsured motorist provision depended upon whether respondent resided with his son in Maine. A person may have more than one residence. Respondent alleged he resided both in New York and in Maine with his son. A hearing to was ordered to determine whether respondent in fact “resided” in both Maine and New York.

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the employment contract between Drone and defendant obligated Drone to pay defendant the salary which remained unpaid upon defendant’s termination. Drone unsuccessfully argued the provision of the contract which allowed cash payment of salaries to be deferred when there were insufficient funds applied only to persons who were employed, not to persons whose employment was terminated:

Drone claimed in opposition that it did not have to pay defendant his salary in cash, but had the option to pay defendant his wages in (worthless and unmarketable) Drone stock, relying on paragraph 3 in the employment agreement, governing compensation during the “employment period,” which states, “the Company may elect to . . . defer any cash payment until it has sufficient funds to do so.” Drone, however, ignores paragraph 5(b) of the employment agreement, applicable post-termination, which states that “[i]n the event that [defendant’s] employment with the Company is terminated . . . the Company shall pay or grant [defendant] any earned but unpaid salary, bonus, and Options through [defendant’s] final date of employment with the Company, and the Company shall have no further obligations to [defendant]” … . Read as a whole, the employment agreement makes clear that while payment of defendant’s salary could be deferred for lack of funds while he remained in Drone’s employ, “all earned but unpaid salary” was payable to defendant, unconditionally, upon termination of employment … . The finality of its language reflects an intent that the parties promptly settle up affairs within a reasonable time … . Drone USA, Inc. v Antonelos, 2022 NY Slip Op 05129, First Dept 9-6-22

Practice Point: Contracts must be read as a whole. Here the provision relied upon by the employer to avoid paying a former employee’s salary applied only to current employees (allowing payment to be deferred when there are insufficient funds available.) Another provision requiring payment to terminated employees was the operative provision.