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New York Attorneys Win on Appeal Reversing Denial of Summary Judgment

Litchfield Cavo LLP New York attorneys Sean H. Chung and Patrick T. Steinbauer won in New York Appellate Court, Second Department on appeal, successfully persuading the Court to reverse the lower court’s denial of summary judgment and dismiss the case.

The civil suit was filed by the Plaintiff who fell approximately 20 feet from a commercial mechanical lift he was operating inside a supermarket where he was working as a commercial baker. The Plaintiff was using mechanical lift to transport baked goods between the basement of the building and the ground floor level of the supermarket.

The lift had a metal platform to hold racks of baked goods while in transit. In the course of operating the lift, Plaintiff attempted to place a bakers rack onto the platform when the lift’s metal platform suddenly gave way and Plaintiff fell to the basement floor. The Plaintiff sustained severe spinal cord injuries resulting in multiple surgical procedures, and filed suit only against our client, the owner of the commercial property for negligence.

Litchfield Cavo attorneys Sean Chung and Patrick Steinbauer filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of our client arguing, inter alia, that there was no defect with regard to the lift and submitted the opinion of an expert mechanical engineer.  Sean also argued that our client should not be held liable as they are an “out-of-possession” owner that did not exercise control over the lift.  Plaintiff argued that our client had prior notice of the defect based on the notice of violation issued by the New York Department of Buildings against our client, and submitted the opinion of an expert engineer arguing that the owner is liable for violating the safety code with regard to the lift.

The lower court denied our motion and Sean appealed to the New York Appellate Division stating that the lower court should have dismissed the action.  In unanimous decision, the Appellate Court held that our attorneys were correct that as an out-of-possession owner that did not assume the duty to maintain the property or the lift, and the owner should not be held liable for Plaintiff’s accident. The Appellate Court also held that plaintiff’s argument that prior notice of the defect should be imputed to the owner, need not be addressed in light of this finding.

Sean focuses his practice on premise liability and commercial litigation for property owners, and employment liability for business owners and executive management. He also represents domestic employers, multi-national corporations and insurance company clients in matters ranging from construction litigation for commercial business owners to products liability for appliance manufacturers.

Patrick has extensive experience with complex trials, multi-plaintiff litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He focuses his practice on general liability, toxic tort and asbestos litigation and defends contractors, building owners, commercial tenants, product manufacturers and their business owners. Patrick handles matters that involve property damage, asbestos lawsuits, automobile accidents and personal injury in New York state courts and federal courts in the Southern and Eastern District of New York.