In Coleman v. City of New York, 91 N.Y.2d at 822, 666 N.Y.S.2d 553, 689 N.E.2d 523, the Court declined to relieve the City of New York of the responsibilities of ownership under the Labor Law where it had leased the site of the accident to the Transit Authority, and a Transit Authority employee was injured while performing repair work.Summary of this case from Costa v. State
Argued October 16, 1997
Decided November 20, 1997
APPEAL, by permission of the Court of Appeals, from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department, entered August 12, 1996, which affirmed so much of a judgment of the Supreme Court (Gilbert Ramirez, J.), entered in Kings County, as, upon an order of the same court (James W. Hutcherson, J.), granting a motion by plaintiff for partial summary judgment pursuant to Labor Law § 240, awarded plaintiff damages against defendant City of New York in the principal sum of $444,039.64.
Coleman v City of New York, 230 A.D.2d 762, affirmed.
Lawrence A. Silver, Brooklyn, and Wallace D. Gossett for third-party defendant-appellant.
Paul A. Crotty, Corporation Counsel of New York City ( Francis F. Caputo and Leonard Koerner of counsel), for defendant and third-party plaintiff-appellant.
Dinkes Morelli, New York City ( William Dinkes and Laurie DiPreta of counsel), for respondent.
The order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, with costs.
Plaintiff, a structure maintainer for appellant New York City Transit Authority, was injured while performing repair work when he fell through a canopy attached to an elevated train station located in Brooklyn that was owned by appellant City of New York. He commenced an action against the City, alleging, among other things, violations of Labor Law § 240 (1). After the City brought a third-party action against the Authority, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment and both appellants — urging that the City was not an owner within the meaning of the statute — cross-moved for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the complaint. Supreme Court granted plaintiff's motion and denied appellants' cross motions. Following a jury trial as to damages, and a judgment of Supreme Court awarding the City full indemnification against the Authority, the Appellate Division affirmed the jury award against the City. Because we agree that the City was an "owner," we too affirm.
In Gordon v Eastern Ry. Supply ( 82 N.Y.2d 555), the owner of the property argued that it was not liable because it leased the property to a contractor who performed the work leading to the injury and did not itself contract for or benefit from the construction involved. We disagreed, stating that "[l]iability rests upon the fact of ownership and whether Eastern had contracted for the work or benefitted from it are legally irrelevant." ( Supra, at 560.) Relying on our earlier decision in Celestine v City of New York ( 59 N.Y.2d 938, affg 86 A.D.2d 592), we articulated the bright line rule that "when the Legislature imposed the duties of section 240 (1) on `[a]ll * * * owners' it intended to include owners in fee even though the property might be leased to another" ( Gordon v Eastern Ry. Supply, supra, 82 N.Y.2d, at 560).
Appellants urge that though technically an "owner," the City lacked any ability to protect Authority employees working on the transit system because of the statutory scheme creating the Authority and establishing appellants' lessor-lessee relationship ( see, L 1953, chs 200-201, codified as Public Authorities Law § 1200 et seq.). Appellants claim that they therefore should not fall within the meaning of "owner" as expressed by Labor Law § 240 (1).
The Legislature has, in the past, carved out exceptions from liability for certain owners ( see, e.g., L 1980, ch 670 [creating ownership exception for owners of one- and two-family dwellings]) but it has not created a similar exception for the City. We therefore decline to exempt the City — which is in fact the owner — from the plain word and reach of the statute, leaving that for the Legislature if it so chooses ( see, Adimey v Erie County Indus. Dev. Agency, 89 N.Y.2d 836, modfg 226 A.D.2d 1053). To the extent that Robinson v City of New York ( 211 A.D.2d 600) may be inconsistent with our holding today, it should not be followed.
Chief Judge KAYE and Judges TITONE, BELLACOSA, SMITH, LEVINE, CIPARICK and WESLEY concur.
Order affirmed, with costs, in a memorandum.