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De La Cruz v. Caddell Dry Dock & Repair Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of New York

June 27, 2013

Manuel DE LA CRUZ et al., Appellants,
v.
CADDELL DRY DOCK & REPAIR CO., INC., et al., Respondents.

Page 531

[975 N.Y.S.2d 372] Virginia & Ambinder, LLP, New York City (James Emmet Murphy and Lloyd R. Ambinder of counsel), for appellants.

Blank Rome LLP, New York City (Richard V. Singleton II and Anthony A. Mingione of counsel), and Frank & Associates, PC, Farmingdale (Peter A. Romero of counsel), for respondents.

Page 532

OPINION

PIGOTT, J.

[997 N.E.2d 1224] We hold that a municipal vessel is a public work within the meaning of Labor Law § 220 and article I, § 17 of the State Constitution— so that workers involved in its construction, maintenance or repair must be paid prevailing wages— if the vessel's primary objective is to benefit the general public.

I

Plaintiffs were employed by defendant Caddell Dry Dock & Repair Co., Inc. (Caddell), which operates six floating dry docks on Staten Island, where workers repair, refurbish and maintain vessels for various tug and barge companies, and for the City of New York. The vessels serviced there have included the Staten Island Ferry vessels, New York City fireboats, and New York City Department of Sanitation garbage barges. In September 2002, plaintiffs, as third-party beneficiaries of contracts between Caddell and New York City agencies, began this action against Caddell and its sureties, seeking enforcement of contractual provisions requiring the payment of the prevailing

Page 533

rate of wages and supplemental benefits. Plaintiffs, relying on Labor Law § 220 and article I, § 17 of the New York State Constitution, contend that the vessels they labored on were " public works" within the meaning of those laws. They sued individually and on behalf of a putative class of approximately 750 Cad-dell employees who repaired and maintained New York City vessels under contracts between Caddell and city agencies.[1]

[975 N.Y.S.2d 373] [997 N.E.2d 1225] Following discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that no " public work" was involved. Plaintiffs cross-moved for partial summary judgment as to liability. Supreme Court denied plaintiffs' cross motion and granted defendants' motion, dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that it was " constrained" by our decision in Brukhman v. Giuliani, 94 N.Y.2d 387, 705 N.Y.S.2d 558, 727 N.E.2d 116 (2000) to find that the city vessels in question were not " public works" within the meaning of Labor Law § 220 ( 95 A.D.3D 297, 298, 942 N.Y.S.2D 61 [1ST DEPT.2012] ). we granted plaintiffs leave to appeal, and now reverse.

II

Pursuant to Labor Law § 220, contractors engaged in public projects must pay their workers wages and supplemental benefits that " shall be not less than the prevailing rate for a day's work in the same trade or occupation in the locality within the state where such public work ... is to be situated, erected or used" (Labor Law § 220[3][a] ). The substance of the statutory requirement dates to the 1890s.[2] The State Constitution was amended in 1905 to authorize such prevailing wage ...


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