The Fourth Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the architectural malpractice cause of action should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff, a hospital maintenance groundskeeper, was injured by a three-foot drop on the other side of a door for which there were no warning signs. Although the door was in a remote area of the hospital, Supreme Court should not have concluded the defendant architectural firm (SBRA) did not owe a duty to the hospital worker who was showing the area to a coworker. The cause of action against the construction company, however, was properly dismissed because the construction company was justified in relying upon SBRA’s specifications:
… SBRA had the initial burden of establishing that it “used the degree of care in design that a reasonably prudent architect would use to avoid an unreasonable risk of harm to anyone likely to be exposed to the danger” … . Initially, we conclude that the court erred in determining that plaintiff was not an intended user of the area where the incident occurred and thus that SBRA had no duty to plaintiff with respect to the design of that area. The evidence established that plaintiff was an employee of the hospital who was using the door in its ordinary manner, i.e., to reach the location on the other side of the door while he was showing that location to a coworker. Moreover, the coworker’s deposition testimony was submitted by SBRA in support of its motion and established that there was a three-foot differential to the floor upon exiting the door and there were no warning signs, no locks on the door, and no railings. Thus, we conclude that SBRA failed to establish as a matter of law that it had no duty to plaintiff … or that it was not negligent in the design of the relevant portion of the building … . Dentico v Turner Constr. Co. & SBRA, Inc., 2022 NY Slip Op 04237, Fourth Dept 7-1-22
Practice Point: There were questions of fact about whether the architectural firm was liable for injuries caused by a three-foot drop on the other side of a door. The causes of action should not have been dismissed on the ground no duty was owed to the plaintiff. Plaintiff was a hospital worker and the door was in a remote area of the hospital. The construction company was not liable because it justifiably relied on the architectural specifications.