Brooklyn Heights

Latest decisions from the Appellate Division, Second Department

June 26, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
The Appellate Division, Second Department, ruled on key legal issues in recent cases, finding defendants had notice of unsafe conditions, affirming the policyholder's right to insurance conversion funds, upholding the reduction of child support and denial of contempt, affirming a $250,000 award in a sidewalk injury case, and dismissing gross negligence and trespass claims in a water main dispute. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Appellate Division finds defendants had notice of unsafe conditions, rules in favor of injured worker

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, has reversed a Kings County Supreme Court decision in favor of plaintiff Pedro Valentin, who was injured in a construction site accident. The appellate court addressed two key legal issues: whether the defendants had notice of a dangerous condition and their control over the work site and whether the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment under Labor Law § 240(1).

The Kings County Supreme Court had dismissed Valentin’s claims of common-law negligence and Labor Law § 200 violations, stating the defendants lacked notice of the dangerous condition. However, the Appellate Division found that there were unresolved factual issues regarding whether the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the unsafe ladder and whether they controlled the work site. Additionally, the appellate court upheld Valentin’s claim under Labor Law § 240(1), ruling that the unsecured ladder posed an elevation-related risk and its collapse was a proximate cause of Valentin’s injuries. Thus, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Valentin, holding the defendants liable for failing to provide adequate safety measures.

– Valentin v. Stathakos –

Second Department confirms: Insurance conversion payout goes to policyholder

The Appellate Division, Second Department, has upheld a Kings County Supreme Court decision denying Wyckoff Imaging Services, P.C.’s motion for summary judgment in a dispute over entitlement to insurance conversion funds. The appellate court affirmed that Dr. Salomon Blutreich, a former employee of Wyckoff Imaging, is entitled to the cash consideration from an insurance policy conversion despite Wyckoff Imaging’s claim to the funds.

Wyckoff Imaging Services, a medical practice in Brooklyn, had employed Dr. Salomon Blutreich and paid premiums for his professional liability insurance policy with MLMIC Insurance Company. When MLMIC converted from a mutual insurance company to a stock insurance company, a conversion plan provided that eligible policyholders would receive cash consideration. Wyckoff Imaging argued that it should receive Blutreich’s share of the cash because it paid the insurance premiums and claimed Blutreich would be unjustly enriched otherwise. The court, however, held that under New York law and the terms of the conversion plan, Blutreich, as the named policyholder, was entitled to the funds, and his retention of the cash consideration did not constitute unjust enrichment.

– Wyckoff Imaging Services, P.C. v. Blutreich –

AD upholds reduction of child support, denial of contempt motion in divorce case

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, has upheld a Kings County Supreme Court decision in the divorce case of Thomas Silla, Jr. v. Melissa Silla, affirming the denial of a motion to hold Melissa Silla in contempt and the reduction of her pendente lite child support obligation. The appellate court’s decision supports the lower court’s rulings on the key legal issues of child support and contempt.

Thomas Silla Jr. filed for divorce in 2018, seeking ancillary relief, including child support. The Kings County Supreme Court issued orders on September 24, 2018, and May 11, 2021, setting Melissa Silla’s pendente lite (temporary) child support obligations. Thomas Silla, Jr. later moved to hold her in contempt for allegedly failing to comply with these orders and sought an award of counsel fees. The court denied these motions, stating that the relevant provisions of the support orders did not clearly express an unequivocal mandate necessary to support a finding of contempt.

Additionally, the court, on its own initiative, reduced Melissa Silla’s temporary child support obligations. Thomas Silla Jr. appealed these decisions. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s rulings, stating that the provisions in the child support orders were not sufficiently clear to hold Melissa Silla in contempt. The appellate court also noted that any perceived inequities in temporary support orders should be addressed through a speedy trial, which had already been completed, rendering further review of the pendente lite support order moot.

– Silla v. Silla –

Appellate Division upholds $250,000 award in sidewalk injury case

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, has upheld a Kings County Supreme Court decision awarding Brenda Davis $250,000 in damages for injuries sustained from a sidewalk fall. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s judgment against Blake GFG, LLC, which had defaulted in the personal injury case.

Brenda Davis filed a lawsuit seeking damages after she tripped and fell on a sidewalk adjacent to property owned by Blake GFG, LLC in Brooklyn. After the defendant failed to respond, the Supreme Court, Kings County, granted Davis leave to enter a default judgment. An inquest on damages ensued, during which Davis presented testimony and medical records detailing injuries to her left knee and shoulder. The court awarded her $250,000 in damages.

Blake GFG, LLC appealed, arguing that Davis’s injuries were degenerative. However, the Appellate Division found that the Supreme Court properly credited Davis’s testimony, noting she had no preexisting conditions. The appellate court also highlighted that the defendant’s medical expert neither examined Davis nor reviewed all her medical records. The Appellate Division concluded that the $250,000 award was justified and supported by the evidence, thereby upholding the Kings County Supreme Court’s decision.

– Davis v. Blake GFG, LLC –

AD dismisses gross negligence and trespass claims in water main dispute

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, has partially overturned a Kings County Supreme Court decision in the case of Trista Huang v. Fort Greene Partnership Homes Condominium. The appellate court dismissed several claims against the condominium, including gross negligence, trespass, private nuisance and a permanent injunction, while upholding the claim of negligence for delayed repairs.

In September 2014, Trista Huang noticed water flowing into her basement from an adjacent property managed by Fort Greene Partnership Homes Condominium. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection identified a broken water main on the condominium’s property as the source and issued a repair notice. Huang sued for negligence, gross negligence, private nuisance and trespass, seeking damages and a permanent injunction.

The Kings County Supreme Court initially denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on these claims. However, the Appellate Division modified this decision, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant for the claims of gross negligence, trespass, private nuisance and the request for a permanent injunction. The appellate court found that the water intrusion was unintentional and that the defendant’s actions did not meet the threshold for gross negligence or punitive damages. However, the court upheld the negligence claim related to the delayed repair of the water main and allowed that aspect of the case to proceed.

– Huang v. Fort Greene Partnership Homes Condominium –


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