The Second Department, affirming the denial of a motion to dismiss counterclaims, in an action stemming from alleged damage to a party wall, explained the law of party walls:
While one who hires an independent contractor generally will not be liable for the contractor’s negligence, an exception exists where the employer has a nondelegable duty to ensure the work is safely performed … . With regard to two owners whose properties abut the same party wall, each owns so much of the wall as stands upon his or her own lot, both “having an easement in the other strip for purposes of the support of his own building” … . “Although the land covered by a party wall remains the several property of the owner of each half, . . . the title of each owner is qualified by the easement to which the other is entitled” … . “[N]either owner may subject a party wall to a use for the benefit of its own property that renders the wall unavailable for similar use for the benefit of the other property” … .
Liability may also be imposed on a property owner where, during renovation, the party wall is altered to the detriment of the adjoining property owner (Schneider v 44-84 Realty Corp. , 169 Misc 249 [Sup Ct, Bronx County 1938], affd 257 App Div 932 [1st Dept 1939]). In Schneider , the court explained that the defendant who tore down its house on one side of the party wall “could not withdraw the wall or change its condition to the injury of plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ property without being liable in damages for any injury that might accrue to the plaintiffs thereby” (id. at 252). Moreover, “[e]ven if the defendant proceeded with all skill and diligence it is still liable to the plaintiffs for any injuries sustained in consequence of the intended alterations to the wall and to the support which the building on defendant’s premises gave to the plaintiffs’ property” (id. at 253). Ehrenberg v Regier, 2016 NY Slip Op 05938, 1st Dept 9-1-16
REAL PROPERTY (THEORIES OF LIABILITY FOR DAMAGE TO A PARTY WALL EXPLAINED)/PARTY WALLS (REAL PROPERTY, THEORIES OF LIABILITY FOR DAMAGE TO A PARTY WALL EXPLAINED)