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Schiffer v. Sunrise Removal

May 12, 2009

ROSLYN SCHIFFER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SUNRISE REMOVAL, INC., ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS,
KEYSPAN HOME ENERGY SERVICES, LLC, ET AL., APPELLANTS-RESPONDENTS, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



In a consolidated action to recover damages for personal injuries, the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., appeal, as limited by their brief, from so much of a judgment of the Supreme Court, Kings County (F. Rivera, J.), dated August 9, 2007, as, upon the denial of their motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability, made at the close of evidence, upon the granting of the plaintiff's motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability, made at the close of evidence, and upon a jury verdict on the issue of damages, is in favor of the plaintiff and against them in the total sum of $776,858.05, and the defendants Sunrise Removal, Inc., and Geoffrey D. McCallum cross-appeal, as limited by their brief, from so much of the same judgment as, upon the denial of their motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability, made at the close of evidence, upon the granting of the plaintiff's motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability, made at the close of evidence, upon a jury verdict on the issue of damages, and upon an order of the same court dated January 5, 2007, granting that branch of the motion of the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., which was for judgment as a matter of law on their cross claims for indemnification against them, is in favor of the plaintiff and against them in the total sum of $776,858.05. The appeal from the judgment brings up for review the issues raised on the appeal from an order of the same court (Schneier, J.), dated March 9, 2006 (see Schiffer v Sunrise Removal, Inc.,AD3d [Appellate Division Docket No. 2006-03856, decided herewith]).

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

ROBERT A. SPOLZINO, J.P., STEVEN W. FISHER, HOWARD MILLER and RUTH C. BALKIN, JJ.

(Index No. 44149/03)

DECISION & ORDER

ORDERED that the judgment is reversed insofar as appealed from, that branch of the motion of the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against them is granted, the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., are dismissed, that branch of the plaintiffs' motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 which was for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability against the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., is denied as academic, that branch of the motion of the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., which was for judgment as a matter of law on their cross claims for indemnification against them is denied as academic, and the orders dated March 9, 2006, and January 5, 2007, are modified accordingly; and it is further,

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed insofar as cross-appealed from; and it is further,

ORDERED that the defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc., are awarded one bill of costs payable by the plaintiff; and it is further,

ORDERED that the plaintiff is awarded one bill of costs payable by the defendants Sunrise Removal, Inc., and Geoffrey D. McCallum.

The defendants Keyspan Home Energy Services, LLC, and Keyspan Plumbing Solutions, Inc. (hereinafter together the Keyspan defendants), contracted with a homeowner to install a new boiler in her home. The Keyspan defendants contacted the defendant Sunrise Removal, Inc. (hereinafter Sunrise), and arranged to have it remove the old boiler.

Three Sunrise employees, including the defendant Geoffrey D. McCallum, went to subject home in a truck owned by Sunrise, removed the boiler, and loaded it onto the truck. After starting the truck in preparation to leave, McCallum went back inside to speak with the homeowner. McCallum testified that he left the truck in "park" with the emergency break engaged, left the keys in the ignition, and the engine running. McCallum left the truck unattended in the homeowner's driveway, and it was uncontested that the driveway sloped down towards her home.

McCallum was called back outside a short time later and saw the truck across the street. The truck had struck the plaintiff, who was walking on the sidewalk, and pinned her against a fence. None of the witnesses in the case saw the truck move up the driveway or across the street, nor did they see the truck strike the plaintiff.

The Keyspan defendants moved for, among other things, summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against them, arguing that they could not be liable for the negligence of Sunrise because Sunrise was an independent contractor. By order dated March 9, 2006, the Supreme Court, Kings County (Schneier, J.), denied the motion.

The case proceeded to a bifurcated trial and, at the close of evidence in the liability phase of the trial, the court denied the motion of the Keyspan defendants, and the separate motion of Sunrise and McCallum, pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law, and granted the plaintiff's motion for the same relief against the Keyspan defendants, McCallum, and Sunrise. After a jury trial on the issue of damages, judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff and against the Keyspan defendants, Sunrise, ...


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