In affirming the grant of summary judgment to defendant snow-removal contractor (Lemp) in a slip and fall case, the Second Department clearly explained the applicable law, including the “Espinal” exceptions to the rule a contractor is not liable to third parties:
As a general rule, a limited contractual obligation to provide snow removal services does not render the contractor liable in tort for the personal injuries of third parties … . However, in Espinal v Melville Snow Contrs. (98 NY2d 136, 140), the Court of Appeals recognized that exceptions to this rule apply (1) where the contracting party, in failing to exercise reasonable care in the performance of his or her duties, launches a force or instrument of harm, (2) where the plaintiff detrimentally relies on the continued performance of the contracting party’s duties, and (3) where the contracting party has entirely displaced another party’s duty to maintain the premises safely.
Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contentions, the defendant Lemp Landscapers, Inc. (hereinafter Lemp), made a prima facie showing of its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by offering proof that the injured plaintiff was not a party to its snow removal contract with the defendant Woodland Pond Condominium Association (hereinafter Woodland), and that it thus owed no duty of care to the injured plaintiff … . Since the plaintiffs did not allege facts in their complaint or bill of particulars which would establish the possible applicability of any of the Espinal exceptions, Lemp, in establishing its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, was not required to affirmatively demonstrate that these exceptions did not apply … .
In opposition to Lemp’s prima facie showing, the plaintiffs offered no evidence to support their contentions that Lemp launched a force or instrument of harm by creating or exacerbating the icy condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff Ernest Rudloff’s fall … . By merely plowing the snow in accordance with the contract and leaving some residual snow or ice on the plowed area, Lemp cannot be said to have created a dangerous condition and thereby launched a force or instrument of harm. Moreover, a claim that a contractor exacerbated an existing condition requires some showing that the contractor left the premises in a more dangerous condition than he or she found them … . Therefore, even if Lemp failed to sand or salt the roadway on which the injured plaintiff fell, the plaintiffs have offered nothing more than speculation that the failure to perform that duty rendered the property less safe than it was before Lemp started its work … . Rudloff v Woodland Pond Condominium Assn, 2013 NY Slip Op 05812, 2nd Dept 9-11-13