THE DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST A TOWN POLICE OFFICER ARE CONTROLLED BY THE TOWN LAW AND THE TOWN POLICE MANUAL, NOT THE CIVIL SERVICE LAW AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT (FOURTH DEPT).

The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the disciplinary proceedings against a town police officer are controlled by the Town Law and the town police manual, not by the Civil Service Law and the collective bargaining agreement (CBA):

… [W]e agree with respondents that the disciplinary procedures set forth in the police manual are controlling, we further agree with respondents that the court erred in directing them to resolve petitioner’s disciplinary proceedings pursuant to Civil Service Law § 75 and the CBA … . To the extent that the police manual contains references to Civil Service Law § 75, it is well settled that section 75 did not repeal or modify Town Law § 155 … . Indeed, “Civil Service Law § 76 (4) states that ‘[n]othing contained in section [75] or [76] of this chapter shall be construed to repeal or modify any general, special or local’ preexisting laws” … , and Town Law § 155, which gives towns the power and authority to adopt rules regarding police discipline, was enacted prior to Civil Service Law §§ 75 and 76 … . Thus, where, as here, a town board has adopted disciplinary rules pursuant to Town Law § 155, those rules are controlling and Civil Service Law § 75 and any collective bargaining agreement are inapplicable … . Matter of Town of Tonawanda Police Club, Inc. v Town of Tonawanda, 2021 NY Slip Op 02959, Fourth Dept 5-7-21

 


CLAIMANT-INMATE’S ACTION AGAINST THE STATE ALLEGING HE WAS BEATEN BY CORRECTIONS OFFICERS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISMISSED; THERE WERE QUESTIONS OF FACT ABOUT WHETHER THE OFFICERS WERE ACTING WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THEIR EMPLOYMENT AT THE TIME OF THE BEATING (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Clark, reversing the Court of Claims, over a two-justice dissent, determined the claimant-inmate’s action alleging claimant was beaten by corrections officers after lodging a complaint against one of the officers (Poupore) should not have been dismissed. The Court of Claims ruled the state could not be liable for the beating because the officers were not acting within the scope of their employment:

… [T]he undisputed evidence demonstrated that the incident took place at Clinton Correctional Facility, that the correction officers involved were on duty and that claimant’s encounter with Poupore by the stairway was occasioned by claimant having been called downstairs for an interview with Wood [Poupre’s supervisor] … . … [T]estimony from defendant’s witnesses demonstrated that pat frisks are routinely conducted prior to inmate interviews and that Poupore was instructed to pat frisk claimant prior to his interview. Accepting claimant’s version of events as true, Poupore struck claimant during the course of that employer-sanctioned pat frisk, which then led to the involvement of additional correction officers. If claimant’s account is credited, Poupore’s intentional tortious act of punching claimant in the head was not so divorced from the performance of his pat-frisk duties so as to preclude a finding that he was acting within the scope of employment. Nor can we conclude as a matter of law that the ensuing altercation was wholly outside the scope of the additional correction officers’ duties. Galloway v State of N.Y., 2021 NY Slip Op 02855, Third Dept 5-6-21

 


THE GENERAL OBLIGATIONS LAW PROHIBITION OF SEEKING REIMBURSEMENT OF MEDICAL COSTS FROM A TORT ACTION SETTLEMENT DOES NOT APPLY TO SELF-FUNDED EMPLOYEE BENEFIT PLANS (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the General Obligations Law prohibition of seeking reimbursement of medical costs out of an insured’s tort action settlement does not apply to self-funded employee benefit plans.

The infant plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident and, after this personal injury action was commenced, sought the Supreme Court’s approval to accept the defendants’ offer to settle his claim for the policy limit of the defendants’ insurance policy of $300,000. The appellant, which is the administrator of the employee benefit plan for the employer of the infant plaintiff’s mother, sought to enforce a subrogation lien in the sum of $108,008.10, for the sums the plan paid for medical bills for the infant plaintiff arising out of the accident, against the settlement proceeds. The appellant contended that New York’s anti-subrogation statute, General Obligations Law § 5-335, was preempted because the employee benefit plan at issue was a self-funded plan governed by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 USC § 1001 et seq. ; hereinafter ERISA). …

While General Obligations Law § 5-335 precludes health insurers from seeking reimbursement out of an insured’s tort action settlement, that statute is preempted by ERISA in the instance of self-funded plans, which are not deemed to be insurers or insurance companies … . Here, the appellant established that the employee benefit plan at issue was self-funded, in that it does not purchase an insurance policy from an insurance company in order to satisfy its obligations to plan participants. As such, it was error to hold that the subrogation lien was unenforceable against the infant plaintiff’s settlement proceeds. David v David, 2021 NY Slip Op 02784, Second Dept 5-5-21

 


PLAINTIFF’S DECEDENT WAS TAKEN TO THE DEFENDANT HOSPITAL’S EMERGENCY ROOM AND WAS OPERATED ON BY AN INDEPENDENT SURGEON; PLAINTIFF DEMONSTRATED THE EMERGENCY ROOM EXCEPTION APPLIED AND THE HOSPITAL WAS VICARIOUSLY LIABLE FOR THE SURGEON’S ALLEGED MALPRACTICE (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff demonstrated the emergency room exception applied and defendant hospital could be held vicariously liable for the alleged malpractice an independent surgeon:

In general, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital may be held vicariously liable for the negligence or malpractice of its employees acting within the scope of employment, but not for the negligence or malpractice of an independent physician, as when the physician is retained by the patient himself or herself … . However, as an exception to this rule, a hospital may be held vicariously liable for the acts of independent physicians if the patient enters the hospital through the emergency room and seeks treatment from the hospital, not from a particular physician … .

Here, the plaintiff satisfied her prima facie burden of demonstrating that the emergency room exception applies by producing evidence that the decedent was brought to the Hospital’s emergency room by ambulance, did not request treatment by a particular physician, and was assigned to Reichman’s care by the Hospital … . Goffredo v St. Luke’s Cornwall Hosp., 2021 NY Slip Op 02788, Second Dept 5-5-21

 


IN AN ACTION BY CATERING WAITSTAFF SEEKING TIPS ALLEGEDLY WITHHELD BY THE EMPLOYER IN VIOLATION OF THE LABOR LAW, THE EMPLOYER CANNOT SEEK INDEMNIFICATION FROM A CONTRACTOR WHICH SUPPLIED CATERING STAFF TO THE EMPLOYER (FIRST DEPT). ​

The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Kern, in a matter of first impression, determined that an employer (Great Performances) cannot seek indemnification from from a contractor (Kensington) for alleged violations of the Labor Law. The plaintiffs alleged Great Performances kept tips which should have gone to tie waitstaff. Kensington had supplied staff to Great Performances for catered events:

We … find that Great Performances’ third-party complaint was properly dismissed as against Kensington on the ground that an employer has no right to contractual indemnification from a third party for claims brought pursuant to NYLL [New York Labor Law] 196-d because indemnification under that statute, whether contractual or otherwise, is against public policy. * * *

The policies behind the statute sought to ensure that employers be held accountable for any wage violations and are not permitted to contract away liability. Indeed, holding that an employer has a right to contractual indemnification from a third party for claims brought pursuant to NYLL 196-d would undermine the employer’s willingness to comply with its obligations under the statute. Robinson v Great Performances/Artists as Waitresses, Inc., 2021 NY Slip Op 02769, First Dept 5-4-21

 


PETITIONER, WHO HAD WORKED FOR THE TOWN FOR 32 YEARS, TOOK $181 FROM PETTY CASH AND LEFT A NOTE INDICATING SHE OWED MONEY TO THE FUND; THE LARCENY AND THEFT CHARGES WERE ANNULLED; TERMINATION WAS TOO SEVERE A PUNISHMENT; MATTER REMITTED (FOURTH DEPT).

The Fourth Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined the theft and larceny charges against petitioner should be annulled and termination of petitioner’s employment with the town was too severe a penalty. Petitioner took $181 from petty cash but left a note indicating she owed money to the fund:

We agree with petitioner that the determination of guilt on charges 1 and 2, which charged her respectively with theft and larceny, is not supported by substantial evidence. A person “commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to him[- or her]self or to a third person, he [or she] wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof” (Penal Law § 155.05 [1]). “Theft” is a synonym of “larceny” (Black’s Law Dictionary 1780 [11th ed 2019]). We conclude that petitioner’s actions, particularly the creation and placement of the note, are inconsistent with an intent to deprive or appropriate (see § 155.00 [3], [4] …). …

… [I]n light of petitioner’s 32 years of service to the Town, her impending retirement, and the absence of grave moral turpitude … , we conclude that the penalty of termination is ” ‘so disproportionate to the offense, in the light of all the circumstances, as to be shocking to one’s sense of fairness’ ” … . Matter of Gray v LaFountain, 2021 NY Slip Op 02624, Fourth Dept 4-30-21

 


THE MILD PENALTY IMPOSED BY THE ARBITRATOR ON AN EMPLOYEE WHO SEXUALLY HARASSED A FELLOW EMPLOYEE VIOLATED PUBLIC POLICY; MATTER REMITTED FOR IMPOSITION OF A PENALTY BY A NEW ARBITRATOR (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department determined the mild penalty imposed by the arbitrator in this place-of-employment sexual harassment case violated public policy. The matter was remitted for imposition of a penalty by a different arbitrator. The employee, Dominie, committed several egregious acts of sexual harassment targeting another employee which led to his pleading guilty to harassment second degree. The arbitrator reinstated Dominie’s employment without conditions:

… [T]he situation here does not involve a single act of misconduct as in Barnard College. In defined contrast, we have a series of four separate, escalating and outrageous sexual harassment incidents. The events are particularly troublesome considering that Dominie engaged in annual sexual harassment training since 2013 and, when confronted by his supervisors after the two January 2017 incidents, promised not to re-offend. The events that followed were even more egregious and rise to the level of criminal conduct, as memorialized in Dominie’s guilty plea to the harassment charge. Given the extremely inappropriate nature of Dominie’s conduct, we conclude that the arbitrator’s decision violates public policy. The award fails to account for the rights of other employees to a non-hostile work environment and conflicts with the employer’s obligation to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace … . The fact that the victimized coworker no longer worked in the office is hardly a mitigating factor. Nor is the penalty consistent with the arbitrator’s “significant concern” that Dominie failed to acknowledge his own wrongdoing. As such, we find that Supreme Court properly vacated the award as violative of the public policy prohibiting sexual harassment. We also conclude that the court was authorized to remit the matter to a different arbitrator for the imposition of a new penalty (see CPLR 7511 [d]). Matter of New York Off. for People with Dev.al Disabilities (Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO), Third Dept 4-29-21

 


PLAINTIFF POLICE OFFICER WAS INJURED CHANGING THE CARBON DIOXIDE CARTRIDGE FOR AN ANIMAL TRANQUILIZER GUN; THE PRODUCTS LIABILITY CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST THE MANUFACTURER SURVIVED SUMMARY JUDGMENT; THE GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW 205-E/LABOR LAW 27-A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST THE CITY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISMISSED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined the negligence and products liability causes of action against NASCO, the manufacturer of an animal tranquilizer gun, properly survived summary judgment, but the General Municipal Law/Labor Law action against the city and the NYPD should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff, a police officer, was injured changing the carbon dioxide cartridge for the gun:

NASCO’s expert … opined in mere conclusory fashion that the tranquilizer gun was “appropriately designed.” The affidavit did not, for example, contain any explanation of the gun’s design, or any discussion of industry standards or costs. Nor did it state whether NASCO had received complaints about any of the other tranquilizer guns it had sold. The conclusory affidavit was insufficient to affirmatively demonstrate, prima facie, that the gun was reasonably safe for its intended use … .

NASCO … failed to demonstrate, prima facie, that the plaintiff’s actions were the sole proximate cause of the subject accident … . Triable issues of fact existed, among other things, as to whether the plaintiff was given specific instructions by the NYPD that he failed to follow or whether he used a tool to remove the end cap. …

NASCO, which relied primarily on an instruction sheet produced by the NYPD that the plaintiff testified was never given to him, failed to meet its burden of establishing, prime facie, that the warnings provided to the NYPD were adequate, that no warnings were necessary, or that the failure to give the aforesaid warnings was not a proximate cause of the accident … .

…The City defendants failed to demonstrate their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing so much of the General Municipal Law § 205-e cause of action as was predicated upon Labor Law § 27-a. The City defendants failed to demonstrate, prima facie, that the tranquilizer gun, which was purchased by the NYPD in 1976, was not defective due to lack of proper maintenance, as alleged by the plaintiff … . Further “[r]ecovery under General Municipal Law § 205-e ‘does not require proof of such notice as would be necessary to a claim in common-law negligence’” … .”Rather, the plaintiff must only establish that the circumstances surrounding the violation indicate that it was a result of neglect, omission, or willful or culpable negligence on the defendant’s part” … . Morales v City of New York, 2021 NY Slip Op 02386, Second Dept 4-21-21

 


THE PROPERTY OWNER WAS NOT LIABLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF THE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR; PLAINTIFF TRIPPED OVER THE HOSE USED BY THE CONTRACTOR TO DELIVER OIL (FIRST DEPT). ​

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant property owner, Goldner, was not liable for the actions of defendant independent contractor, UMEC, because Goldner did not oversee UMEC’s work and, based upon the protective measures taken by UMEC in the past, the incident was not foreseeable. UMEC delivered oil to Goldner and plaintiff allegedly tripped over the hose which ran across the sidewalk. In the past UMEC had set up safety measures to protect pedestrians from the tripping hazard:

“Generally, a party that hires an independent contractor cannot be held liable for the negligence of that independent contractor” … . “The primary justification for this rule is that one who employs an independent contractor has no right to control the manner in which the work is to be done and thus, the risk of loss is more sensibly placed on the contractor” … . There are various exceptions to this general rule, including “(1) [n]egligence of the employer in selecting, instructing, or supervising the contractor”; (2) “[n]on-delegable duties of the employer, arising out of some relation toward the public or the particular plaintiff”; and (3) “[w]ork which is specially, peculiarly, or inherently dangerous” … .

Under the circumstances presented, we disagree with the motion court’s finding that triable issues of fact exist as to whether Goldner may be liable for the work of an independent contractor where danger is readily foreseeable. The deposition testimony shows that Goldner did not supervise, monitor, or control UMEC when the oil would be delivered. The evidence also shows that UMEC had a prior history of consistently placing safety measures to prevent a pedestrian from tripping over the oil hose. In light of the preexisting precautions established by UMEC and lack of any complaints from prior oil deliveries, Goldner was not placed on notice of the existence of a dangerous condition … . Here, the danger arose “because of the negligence of the independent contractor or [its] employees, which negligence [was] collateral to the work and which [was] not reasonably to be expected” … . Linder v United Metro Energy Servs. Corp., 2021 NY Slip Op 02250, First Dept 4-13-21

 


PLAINTIFF ALLEGED SHE WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED BY DEFENDANT’S EMPLOYEE; PLAINTIFF’S NEGLIGENT HIRING, TRAINING, SUPERVISION AND RETENTION CAUSE OF ACTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISMISSED; THE MOTION TO DISMISS BASED ON DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE WAS UNTIMELY BECAUSE THE THEORY WAS NOT ASSERTED IN THE ANSWERS; THE MOTION TO DIMSISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION WAS SUPPORTED ONLY BY INADMISSIBLE HEARSAY (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined: (1) defendant security company’s (Kent’s) motion to dismiss the negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a)(1) was untimely because the defendant did not assert a defense based on documentary evidence in its answers; and (2) the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim failed because the affidavit submitted by defendant’s director of operations was not sworn to have been made on his personal knowledge and did not lay a proper foundation for the admissibility of the documents referred to in the affidavit as business records. Plaintiff, Erin, alleged a security guard employed by defendant (Kent) sexually assaulted her at a hotel where Kent provided security services:

… [T]he affidavit of Kent’s director of operations was not sworn to have been made on his own personal knowledge, and therefore was of no probative value as to the issues of fact that he addressed … . Moreover, although “an affidavit from an individual, even if the person has no personal knowledge of the facts, may properly serve as the vehicle for the submission of acceptable attachments which provide evidentiary proof in admissible form, like documentary evidence” … , the affidavit must nevertheless “constitute a proper foundation for the admission of the records”… . Because Kent’s director of operations did not establish that the documents annexed to his affidavit fell within the business records exception to the hearsay rule (CPLR 4518[a]), those documents were inadmissible … .

Contrary to defendant’s argument, plaintiffs do have a well-pled negligent hiring claim cognizable at law. Plaintiffs’ allegations are sufficient to put Kent on notice of their claim that Kent negligently hired, trained, supervised, and retained the guard who, plaintiffs allege, sexually assaulted Erin, and that Kent knew or should have known of the guard’s propensity to commit sexual assault. Moreover, plaintiffs can amplify these allegations in their bill of particulars … . Doe v Intercontinental Hotels Group, PLC, 2021 NY Slip Op 02063, First Dept 4-1-21

 

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