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Galino v. Fleischmann Realty & Const. Co.

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

March 5, 1909

GALINO
v.
FLEISCHMANN REALTY & CONST. CO.

Appeal from Trial Term, New York County.

Action by Tony Galino against the Fleischmann Realty & Construction Company. From a judgment for plaintiff, and from an order denying a new trial, defendant appeals. Reversed, and new trial ordered.

A notice of injury to an employé, averring that the employer was negligent in failing to furnish a reasonably safe place and appliances, in knowingly employing and retaining incompetent foremen and co-workmen, and in not promulgating proper rules for the safety of employés, is insufficient within the employer's liability act (Laws 1902, p. 1748, c. 600), requiring such notice of the time, place, and cause of injury as will acquaint the employer of the negligent act relied on.

[115 N.Y.S. 335] John C. Robinson, for appellant.

Thomas J. O'Neill, for respondent.

Argued before INGRAHAM, McLAUGHLIN, HOUGHTON, CLARKE, and SCOTT, JJ.

MCLAUGHLIN, J.

The plaintiff, an employe of the defendant, brought this action to recover damages, under the common law and the employer's liability act (chapter 600, p. 1748, Laws of 1902), for personal injuries which he claimed were caused by reason of the latter's negligence, which was put in issue by the answer. He had a verdict, and from the judgment entered thereon, and an order denying a motion for a new trial, defendant appeals.

The particular act of negligence complained of was a signal given by the defendant's superintendent, or a person performing acts of superintendence, by which an elevator on which the plaintiff was riding was caused to descend so rapidly that the fingers of one of his hands were injured by a wheelbarrow on the elevator coming in contact with them. The testimony offered on the part of the plaintiff tended to establish his claim, while that offered on the part of the defendant was to the effect that the plaintiff had frequently been warned not to ride on the elevator, that he gave the signal himself, and was responsible for his own injury. Which contention was correct presented a question of fact, which was for the determination of the jury, [115 N.Y.S. 336] and its finding on this branch of the case would be affirmed, were it not for the fact that errors were committed at the trial which call for a reversal of the judgment.

The plaintiff, in order to establish his case under the employer's liability act, was permitted to introduce in evidence, against the defendant's objection and exception, a notice served upon the defendant prior to the commencement of the action. The objection to the notice should have been sustained. It is not a notice of the kind or character required by the act. The purpose of such a notice is to acquaint the employer with the particular negligent act for which it is proposed to hold him liable, and thus enable him to make the necessary inquiries, so that he can settle the claim without action, or, if action be brought, properly present his defence. Barry v. Derby Desk Co., 121 A.D. 810, 106 N.Y.Supp. 575.It is defective, in that it does not state the particular act of negligence complained of. It states simply that the injuries were caused by defendant's negligence, in that it failed-

" to furnish me with a reasonably safe place and appliances in and with which to do the work, and failed to reasonably safeguard, inspect, and keep safe the place and appliances with which I was directed to work, and failed to furnish me with proper and reasonably safe ways, works, and machinery, and in that you knowingly employed and retained incompetent foremen and co-workmen to guide, direct, and assist me in the performance of my work, and failed to formulate, promulgate, and enforce proper rules and regulations for my safety and the safety of said coemployes, as a result of all of which I was caused and permitted to fall, and material fell upon me, and I sustained the injuries as aforesaid."

From this notice the defendant could gain no information as to the particular act of negligence of which the plaintiff complained. It is substantially the same as the notice pronounced defective by this court in Finnigan v. New York Contracting Co., 122 A.D. 712, 107 N.Y.Supp. 855, recently affirmed by the Court of Appeals (not yet officially reported), 87 N.E. 424.

The court also erred in charging the jury, to which an exception was taken, that:

" If the foreman ordered the plaintiff to descend by the elevator, and gave the signal to descend rapidly, his act constituted negligence, which would bind the defendant, and plaintiff would be entitled to recover."

Whether the order of the foreman, if given, were an act of negligence, was a question of fact to be determined by the jury, and not a question of law to be determined by the court Nor was the erroneous instruction thus given cured by what subsequently ...


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