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Goodwin v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

December 20, 2017

Lawrence Goodwin, appellant,
v.
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, et al., respondents. Index No. 27420/08

          Argued - October 12, 2017

         D54151 M/htr

          The Law Offices of James M. Sheridan, Jr., P.C., Garden City, NY, for appellant.

          Camacho Mauro Mulholland, LLP, New York, NY (Wendy Jennings of counsel), for respondent Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.

          Leon R. Kowalski (McGaw, Alventosa & Zajac, Jericho, NY [Ross P. Masler], of counsel), for respondent Cushman & Wakefield, Inc.

          Chesney & Nicholas, LLP, Syosset, NY (Marie I. Goutzounis and John Janowski of counsel), for respondent Nouveau Elevator Industries, Inc.

          REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P. SHERI S. ROMAN HECTOR D. LASALLE BETSY BARROS, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the plaintiff appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Vaughan, J.), dated November 25, 2014, as denied his cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability and pursuant to CPLR 3126 to strike the defendants' separate answers or, in the alternative, to preclude them from offering certain evidence at trial on the ground of spoliation of evidence, and granted those branches of the defendants' separate motions which were for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them.

         ORDERED that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with one bill of costs.

         On October 7, 2005, the plaintiff allegedly was injured when he tripped and fell while entering an elevator on the fifth floor of a building located in Manhattan. He commenced this action against the defendants Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (hereinafter Guardian), which owned the building at the time of the accident, Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. (hereinafter Cushman), the property manager for the building, and Nouveau Elevator Industries, Inc. (hereinafter Nouveau), the elevator maintenance company that had a contract to maintain and repair the elevator. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous misleveling condition that caused his injuries.

         After discovery, the defendants separately moved, inter alia, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them. The plaintiff opposed the motions and cross-moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor, and pursuant to CPLR 3126 to strike the defendants' separate answers or, in the alternative, to preclude them from offering certain evidence at trial on the ground of spoliation of evidence. In an order dated November 25, 2014, the Supreme Court, among other things, granted those branches of the defendants' separate motions which were for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them, and denied the plaintiffs cross motion. The plaintiff appeals.

         A property owner can be held liable for an elevator-related injury where there is a defect in the elevator, and the property owner has actual or constructive notice of the defect (see Cilinger v Arditi Realty Corp, 77 A.D.3d 880, 882; Lee v City of New York, 40 A.D.3d 1048, 1049), or where it fails to notify the elevator company with which it has a maintenance and repair contract about a known defect (see Isaac v 1515Macombs, LLC, 84 A.D.3d 457, 458; Oxenfeldt v 22 N. Forest Ave. Corp., 30 A.D.3d 391, 392). "An elevator company which agrees to maintain an elevator in safe operating condition can also be held liable to an injured passenger 'for failure to correct conditions of which it has knowledge or failure to use reasonable care to discover and correct a condition which it ought to have found"' (Tucci v Starrett City, Inc., 97 A.D.3d 811, 812, quoting Rogers v Dorchester Assoc., 32 N.Y.2d 553, 559; see Cilinger v Arditi Realty Corp., 77 A.D.3d at 882).

         Here, Guardian and Cushman, its agent, each made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting evidence establishing that they did not have actual or constructive notice of any defect in the elevator that would cause it to mislevel (see Tucci v Starrett City, Inc., 97 A.D.3d at 812). Nouveau similarly established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting evidence establishing that it lacked actual or constructive notice of the alleged defective condition (see Johnson v Nouveau El. Indus., Inc., 38 A.D.3d 611, 612), and that it did not fail to use reasonable care to correct a condition of which it should have been aware (see Isaac v 1515 Macombs, LLC, 84 A.D.3d at 458).

         In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact. The affidavit of the plaintiffs expert was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact because it was conclusory, lacking in foundation, and speculative (see Tucci v Starrett City, Inc., 97 A.D.3d at 812-813; Forde v Vornado Realty Trust,89 A.D.3d 678, 679-680; Cilinger v Arditi Realty Corp., 77 A.D.3d at 882-883). Further, the plaintiff could not rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur because he failed to demonstrate that the accident ...


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