Can the School Where Plaintiff Was Sexually Abused Be Sued for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Novak v Sisters of the Heart of Mary, 2022 NY Slip Op 06814, Second Dept 11-30-22

Does a Qualified Privilege Apply to Allegedly Defamatory Statements Made in a Members-Only Chat Room?

Joo Tae Yoo v Choi, 2022 NY Slip Op 06791, Second Dept 11-30-22

What Happens When a Defendant Who Has Demanded a Jury Trial Interposes Affirmative Defenses Which Are Equitable in Nature?

Conwell Props., Inc. v DAG Rte. Six, LLC, 2022 NY Slip Op 06785, Second Dept 11-30-22

What Happens When a State College Withholds Exculpatory Evidence in a Student-Misconduct Proceeding Which Led to Expulsion?

Matter of Mozdziak v State Univ. of N.Y. Mar. Coll., 2022 NY Slip Op 06759, First Dept 11-29-22

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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.

For the latest decision-summaries in a specific legal category and from a specific court choose a category from the drop-down menu in 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.

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.”

If you want to see what the Court of Appeals ruled on last year in all categories, leave “All Categories” in the top line of the search panel, choose January 1, 2022, for the start date and today for the end date, click on “Court of Appeals” in the search panel menu and click on “Search.”

Any type of search can be confined to any specific time period between January 1, 2013, and today.

For more on this “personalized update service” capability, click on “Update Service.”

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;

CONTRACT LAW;

CRIMINAL LAW;

DEBTOR-CREDITOR;

DEFAMATION;

EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW;

EMPLOYMENT LAW;

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW;

FAMILY LAW;

FORECLOSURE;

FRAUD;

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW (FOIL);

INSURANCE LAW;

INTENTIONAL TORTS;

LANDLORD-TENANT;

MENTAL HYGIENE LAW;

MUNICIPAL LAW;

PERSONAL INJURY;

PRODUCTS LIABILITY;

REAL PROPERTY;

TAX LAW;

TRUSTS AND ESTATES;

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE;

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION;

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 November 28 – December 2, 2022, by the First, Second and Third Departments 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.

The Latest Posts in a Specific Legal Category Can Also Be Accessed Simply by Clicking on the Category in the Footer at the Bottom of All of the Website Pages.

For the Latest Posts from a Specific Court, Most Recent First, Use the Search Panel—Either Choose “All Categories” or a Specific Category in the Drop-Down Menu (Revealed by Clicking on “All Categories” at the Top of the Search Panel) and Choose the Desired Court by Clicking On It in the Menu, then Click on “Search”—To Choose Multiple Courts, Hold Down the “Ctrl” Key and Click on Them—To De-Select a Selected Court, Hold Down the “Ctrl” Key and Click on It.

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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 Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Lynch (too detailed to fully summarize here), determined petitioner chiropractor was not entitled to a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Board removed petitioner from the list of authorized medical providers. Petitioner acknowledged taking payments directly from a supplier of medical equipment, which is a violation of the Workers’ Compensation Law. Petitioner’s only argument on appeal was his entitlement to a hearing before removal from the list. After analyzing the applicable statutes, the Third Department determined, absent any contested facts about the statutory violation, petitioner was not entitled to a hearing:

… [W]e agree with respondent that the chair [Workers’ Compensation Board] has authority independent of the CPC [chiropractic practice committee] to conduct an investigation, find that the provider is disqualified from rendering care under the Workers’ Compensation Law for statutorily specified acts of misconduct and, upon such a finding, remove the provider from the list of authorized chiropractors (see Workers’ Compensation Law § 13-l [10], [12]; see also Workers’ Compensation Law § 13-l [10] [g]). * * *

In an instance where questions of fact attend the asserted charges of professional misconduct or incompetency, a hearing would be in order. Here, however, petitioner has admitted and documented his receipt of payments from [the medical equipment supplier] for treatment rendered to workers’ compensation claimants in direct violation of Workers’ Compensation Law § 13-l (10) (g). Under these circumstances, no hearing was warranted and respondent’s decision to remove petitioner from the list of authorized providers was not arbitrary and capricious. Matter of Levi v New York State Workers’ Compensation Bd., 2022 NY Slip Op 06850, Third Dept 12-1-22

Practice Point: In the absence of contested facts about whether petitioner-chiropractor violated the Workers’ Compensation Law by taking payments directly from a medical equipment provider, the Workers’ Compensation Board properly removed petitioner’s name from the list of authorized providers without first holding a hearing.

The First Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the club’s (Copacabana”) motion for summary judgment dismissing the Dram Shop Act cause of action should not have been granted. Because the subsequent accident did not occur on the club’s premises, the common law negligence cause of action was properly dismissed:

Copacabana was not entitled to summary judgment dismissing the claim alleging violation of the Dram Shop Act (General Obligations Law § 11-101; Alcohol Beverage Control Law § 65 [2]), as it did not satisfy its initial burden of negating the possibility that it served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person … . While Copacabana relied on defendant Anslem Trotman’s deposition testimony that he arrived to the establishment after having only one beer, and that he did not recall anyone from Copacabana serving him drinks, Trotman’s testimony was insufficient to rule out the possibility that he was served alcohol by Copacabana waitstaff while he was visibly intoxicated. Trotman had also testified that he was drunk and could not remember large portions of the night, and his testimony was equivocal as to whether Copacabana waitstaff served him drinks or whether he purchased additional alcohol beyond what came with his party package. …

Plaintiff’s common-law negligence was properly dismissed, as the accident that resulted in plaintiff’s injuries occurred off Copacabana’s premises … . The claim for punitive damages was also properly dismissed, as there is no independent cause of action for punitive damages …  and plaintiff failed to establish a basis for such damages. Denenberg v 268 W. 47th Rest., Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 06866, First Dept 12-1-22

Practice Point: Here there were questions of fact whether plaintiff was served alcohol by defendant club when he was visibly intoxication. The Dram Shop Act cause of action should not have been dismissed. Because the accident did not happen on the club’s premises, the common law negligence cause of action was properly dismissed.

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court in this rear-end traffic accident case, determined defendant’s allegation that the plaintiff “stopped short” did not raise a question of fact:

The court should have granted plaintiff for summary judgment on liability. Plaintiff established prima facie that defendant was negligent by submitting his affidavit that defendant’s vehicle rear-ended his vehicle as he slowed down or stopped to accommodate another vehicle that was merging in from his right, and defendant failed to provide a nonnegligent explanation for the collision …  Defendant claimed only that defendant [plaintiff?] stopped short, which, by itself, was insufficient to rebut the presumption of negligence … . Contrary to the motion court’s finding, plaintiff was not required to establish absence of comparative negligence on his part to be entitled to summary judgment on liability … .

In view of plaintiff’s affidavit establishing his own lack of fault and his seatbelt usage, and the absence of any proof to the contrary, the affirmative defenses of comparative negligence and failure to wear a seatbelt, as well as the irrelevant defense of assumption of risk, are also dismissed … . Vasquez v Strickland, 2022 NY Slip Op 06876, First Dept 12-1-22

Practice Point: In a rear-end traffic accident, defendant’s allegation plaintiff “stopped short” does not raise a question of fact.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff in this Child Victims Act action alleging sexual abuse by a priest while plaintiff was attending defendant’s parish school stated causes of action for negligent hiring, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. “The complaint alleged .* * * the priest … was an employee and/or an agent of the defendant, that the defendant had knowledge that the priest was abusing students, including the plaintiff, or that he had the propensity to abuse, and that the sexual abuse of the plaintiff occurred during school activities and during times at which the plaintiff was under the defendant’s supervision and care, custody, and control.”:

An employer can be held liable under theories of negligent hiring, retention, and supervision where the complaint alleges that “the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s propensity for the conduct which caused the injury” … . Causes of action alleging negligence based upon negligent hiring, retention, or supervision are not statutorily required to be pleaded with specificity … .

… [A] school “has a duty to exercise the same degree of care toward its students as would a reasonably prudent parent, and will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision” … . “The duty owed derives from the simple fact that a school, in assuming physical custody and control over its students, effectively takes the place of parents and guardians” … .

… [T]reating the allegations in the complaint as true, including that the defendant had knowledge of the priest’s sexual abuse of the plaintiff and other children and concealed that abuse, and giving the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, the alleged conduct would be sufficiently outrageous in character and extreme in degree to set forth a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress … . Novak v Sisters of the Heart of Mary, 2022 NY Slip Op 06814, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: In an action pursuant to the Child Victims Act, plaintiff alleged he was sexually abused by a priest while attending defendant’s school. The complaint alleged defendant knew about the abuse. The complaint causes of action for negligent hiring, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the referee’s deed-holder’s (I & I’s) complaint failed to state a cause of action for reforeclosure (RPAPL 1503, 1523) against McWhite, the owner of the subject property. McWhite had been dismissed from the original foreclosure action because plaintiff never moved for a default judgment. The foreclosure plaintiff was aware McWhite was not included in the foreclosure when it filed its judgment, which falsely indicated McWhite’s interest in the property had been extinguished. McWhite was entitled to summary judgment on her quiet title action:

Under the circumstances of this case, I & I failed to state a cause of action against McWhite for reforeclosure because the defect in the foreclosure action was due to the willful neglect of the foreclosure plaintiff as a matter of law. The underlying objective of foreclosure actions is “to extinguish the rights of redemption of all those who have a subordinate interest in the property and to vest complete title in the purchaser at the judicial sale” … . The defect in the underlying foreclosure action was that McWhite’s interest was not validly extinguished in the judgment of foreclosure and sale due to her effective dismissal from the action. … [T]he foreclosure plaintiff here knew that McWhite had been effectively dismissed from the action and that the judgment of foreclosure and sale could not validly extinguish her interest in the premises. The foreclosure plaintiff nevertheless made a conscious decision to proceed to judgment and sale without validly extinguishing McWhite’s known interest … . * * *

Here, the judgment of foreclosure and sale was void as to McWhite and the foreclosure sale did not transfer her interest in the premises to I & I. Moreover, McWhite established, prima facie, that the foreclosure action accelerated the mortgage debt, that the foreclosure action was dismissed as abandoned pursuant to CPLR 3215(c), and the commencement of a new foreclosure action would be time-barred by the applicable six-year statute of limitations (see CPLR 213[4] … ). In opposition, I & I failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted that branch of McWhite’s motion which was for summary judgment on the complaint in the quiet title action. McWhite v I & I Realty Group, LLC, 2022 NY Slip Op 06795, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: Here the foreclosure plaintiff was aware the owner of the subject property, McWhite, had been dismissed from the original foreclosure action because plaintiff never moved for a default judgment. Yet the foreclosure plaintiff filed the judgment of foreclosure falsely indicating McWhite’s interest in the property had been extinguished. The owner of the referee’s deed therefore could not bring a reforecloscure action (RPAPL 1503, 1523) against McWhite and McWhite was entitled to summary judgment on her quite title action.

The Second Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the complaint in this traffic accident case should not have been dismissed as a discovery sanction. But defendant’s motion to vacate the note of issue due to plaintiff’s delay in disclosing prior relevant injuries should have been granted. In addition the appellate court ordered plaintiff’s attorney to pay defendants’ attorney $3000:

Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the defendants’ motion to the extent of directing dismissal of the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3126(3). Although the plaintiff initially failed to provide authorizations for the release of medical records relating to pertinent injuries which pre-date the subject accident, the plaintiff did provide date-restricted authorizations for the release of medical records relating to pertinent injuries approximately one week after the defendants requested them. … [D]efendants did not clearly demonstrate that the plaintiff’s discovery-related conduct was willful and contumacious … .

However, in light of the plaintiff’s delay in disclosing information about prior injuries that bear on the controversy and would assist preparation for trial … . the Supreme Court should have granted the defendants’ motion to the extent of vacating the note of issue … , directing the plaintiff to provide the defendants with authorizations permitting the release of medical records relating to pertinent injuries which pre-date the subject accident, and directing the plaintiff’s attorney to pay the sum of $3,000 to the defendants’ attorney….. Lopez v Maggies Paratransit Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 06793, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: Here in this traffic accident case plaintiff’s delays in providing information about prior relevant injuries warranted vacating the note of issue and payment of $3000 by plaintiff’s attorney to defendants’ attorney.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the statements alleged to be defamatory were protected by qualified privilege. Plaintiff is an organization established to act as a liaison between the Korean-American community and the NYC Police Department. The statements were made in a Korean language chat group where the management of the organization was discussed:

The defendant established, prima facie, that his alleged statements are subject to a qualified privilege. Qualified privilege applies to a statement “when it is fairly made by a person in the discharge of some public or private duty, legal or moral, or in the conduct of his own affairs, in a matter where his [or her] interest is concerned” … . Application of the privilege depends on whether “the relation of the parties [is] such as to afford reasonable ground for supposing an innocent motive for giving the information, and to deprive the act of an appearance of officious intermeddling with the affairs of others” … . Here, the alleged statements were made in a password-controlled, members-only chat group, and involved the management of the members’ organization. Such circumstances fall within the scope of the qualified privilege … .

A plaintiff may defeat the qualified privilege with a showing of either common-law malice (spite or ill will), or actual malice (knowledge of the falsity of the statement or reckless disregard for the truth) … . Here, the plaintiffs failed to submit any evidence that the defendant was motivated by malice alone in making the alleged statements … . They similarly failed to submit any evidence that the defendant knew the alleged statements were false or acted with a reckless disregard for their truth … . Joo Tae Yoo v Choi, 2022 NY Slip Op 06791, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point:  Qualified privilege applies to  an allegedly defamatory statement “when it is fairly made by a person in the discharge of some public or private duty, legal or moral, or in the conduct of his own affairs, in a matter where his [or her] interest is concerned” … . Qualified privilege will be defeated if is demonstrated the statements were made with “common law malice” (ill will or spite) or “actual malice (knowledge of the falsity of the statement or reckless disregard for the truth).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the defendant Diocese’s motion to dismiss the intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action should not have been granted. Plaintiff, pursuant to the Child Victims Act, alleged he was sexually abused by a priest when he was 15 to 15 years old:

“The elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress are (1) extreme and outrageous conduct; (2) the intent to cause, or the disregard of a substantial likelihood of causing, severe emotional distress; (3) causation; and (4) severe emotional distress” … . Here, treating as true the plaintiff’s allegations in the second amended complaint, that the defendants had knowledge of the priest’s sexual abuse of the plaintiff and other children, yet concealed the abuse and permitted it to continue, and according the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, the alleged conduct was sufficiently outrageous in character and extreme in degree to set forth a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress … . The plaintiff also sufficiently alleged a causal connection between the defendants’ alleged outrageous conduct and the plaintiff’s injuries … . Moreover, this cause of action is not duplicative of the cause of action seeking to recover damages for negligence … . Eskridge v Diocese of Brooklyn, 2022 NY Slip Op 06788, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: Here the complaint stated a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Diocese based on the alleged sexual abuse of plaintiff by a priest, criteria explained.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the defendant’s making equitable counterclaims waived a jury trial on all causes of action:

Where, as here, a defendant interposes counterclaims of an equitable nature related to a cause of action asserted in the complaint, the defendant waives a jury trial on all causes of action, whether legal or equitable in nature … . Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted the plaintiff’s motion to strike the defendant’s demand for a jury trial. … . Conwell Props., Inc. v DAG Rte. Six, LLC, 2022 NY Slip Op 06785, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: Where a defendant interposes counterclaims which are equitable in nature, the defendant waives a jury trial on all causes of action.

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant’s motion for summary judgment asserting the sidewalk defect which caused plaintiff’s slip and fall was trivial should not have been granted:

… [P]laintiff allegedly was injured when she tripped and fell due to a height differential between two sidewalk slabs abutting premises owned by the defendant … . …

“Generally, the issue of whether a dangerous or defective condition exists on the property of another depends on the facts of each case and is a question of fact for the jury” … . “A defendant seeking dismissal of a complaint on the basis that [an] alleged defect is trivial must make a prima facie showing that the defect is, under the circumstances, physically insignificant and that the characteristics of the defect or the surrounding circumstances do not increase the risks it poses. Only then does the burden shift to the plaintiff to establish an issue of fact” … . In determining whether a defect is trivial, the court must examine all of the facts presented, including the “width, depth, elevation, irregularity and appearance of the defect along with the time, place and circumstance of the injury” … . There is no “minimal dimension test” or “per se rule” that the condition must be of a certain height or depth in order to be actionable … . Butera v Brookhaven Mem. Hosp. Med. Ctr., Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 06783, Second Dept 11-30-22

Practice Point: Here the defendant did not demonstrate the sidewalk defect which caused plaintiff’s slip and fall was trivial as a matter of law, criteria explained.

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant’s motion for summary judgment in this medical malpractice action should have been granted. Plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit did not address or controvert the defendant’s expert’s opinion. Plaintiff alleged her “foot drop” was caused by prescribed medication: Defendant’s expert opined the foot drop could not have been caused by the medication plaintiff took:

Defendant made a prima facie case of summary judgment through its expert who stated that there was no medical evidence that methotrexate, a drug in use since 1947, causes peripheral neuropathy or a foot drop, either alone or in combination with one of plaintiff’s other medications, and opined that foot drop would not have manifested at the single low dose of methotrexate consumed by plaintiff over the course of one day; the short period that elapsed between this consumption of the drug and the emergence of foot drop, was atypical for a drug-induced peripheral neuropathy; if plaintiff’s condition were a drug induced peripheral neuropathy, it would have resolved within weeks of the discontinuance of methotrexate and the fact that plaintiff’s condition persisted for years and did not resolve upon discontinuing methotrexate, was a presentation atypical for drug-induced peripheral neuropathy; and plaintiff’s presumed diagnosis of sarcoidosis, could be an explanation for her condition.

In opposition to defendants’ prima facie showing, plaintiff’s expert failed to demonstrate the existence of triable issues of fact by demonstrating that defendants’ prescription of the drug methotrexate was a “substantial factor” in causing her claimed injury of “foot drop” … . The expert failed to address or controvert many of the points made by defendants’ expert. He did not address or controvert defendant’s expert’s opinion that 5mg of methotrexate taken in one day could not cause foot drop, or, if it did, why the foot drop did not resolve within weeks of discontinuation of the medication. Plaintiff’s expert also failed to address defendant’s expert’s opinion that the more likely culprit for plaintiff’s foot drop was her presumed diagnosis of neuro-sarcoidosis, as indicated in the medical records. Camacho v Pintauro, 2022 NY Slip Op 06743, First Dept 11-29-22

Practice Point: Medical malpractice cases are battles between experts. At the summary judgment stage, if supported opinions in the defense expert’s affidavit  are not addressed or controverted by the plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit, defendant wins.

The First Department, reversing the expulsion of petitioner-student and reinstating the student in good standing, determined the respondent state college had withheld exculpatory evidence which indicated petitioner did not carve a racial epithet on an elevator door. Two students claimed to have seen petitioner carve the epithet. Another student sent an email stating he had seen the epithet on the door before the students arrived for the semester. That email was never disclosed to the petitioner:

Article III of Section 4 of respondent’s Code of Conduct enumerates the due process rights of students charged with violations. In addition to the right to a fair hearing, a charged student “has the right to copies of written reports pertinent to the case . . .” Respondent’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence in its possession prior to the hearing violated its own policies and procedures, thereby violating petitioner’s due process rights … . Now, in hindsight, it cannot be said that petitioner received a fair hearing where evidence tending to prove his innocence was withheld.

Accordingly, after our independent review of the record as a whole, we now find that this exculpatory evidence, the extensive alibi evidence as well as other objective evidence of petitioner’s innocence render the charges unsupportable as a matter of law thus warranting vacatur of the expulsion penalty, expungement of all references to the underlying charges contained in petitioner’s academic record and his reinstatement as a student in good standing … . Matter of Mozdziak v State Univ. of N.Y. Mar. Coll., 2022 NY Slip Op 06759, First Dept 11-29-22

Practice Point: In this misconduct proceeding in a state college, the student was entitled to due process. The college’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence required vacation of the expulsion penalty and reinstatement of the student in good standing.

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant plumbing company’s motion for summary judgment in this slip and fall case should have been granted. The First Department held the attempt to connect the pipe-repair to the leak which caused the slip and fall was pure speculation:

Plaintiff slipped and fell on water that spilled out of a garbage bin positioned to catch a leak from a pipe in the ceiling of the basement storeroom in a building owned by plaintiff’s employer. About two months before plaintiff’s accident, defendant had repaired a sanitary waste line pipe in a basement corridor outside the storeroom in which the accident occurred. Upon these undisputed facts established by the record, defendant should have been granted summary judgment, as there is nothing but speculation to connect defendant’s work on the waste pipe in the corridor with the leak from the water pipe in the storeroom that appeared two months later and caused plaintiff’s mishap.

We note that plaintiff cannot rely upon the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, because he has not established that the pipes were within defendant’s exclusive control … . Defendant made a showing, which plaintiff failed to rebut, that defendant was part of a rotation of plumbers who made only emergency repairs at the hospital, and that plaintiff’s employer employed in-house plumbers. Taitt v Riehm Plumbing Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 06775, First Dept 11-29-22

Practice Point: Here the leaking pipe which caused plaintiff’s slip and fall could not be connected to repairs made by defendant plumbing company two months before. The res ipsa loquitiur doctrine did not apply because defendant did not have exclusive control over the water pipes.