Keating v Town of Oyster Bay

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Keating v Town of Oyster Bay 2012 NY Slip Op 30129(U) January 10, 2012 Sup Ct, Nassau County Docket Number: 1897/10 Judge: Thomas P. Phelan Republished from New York State Unified Court System's E-Courts Service. Search E-Courts (http://www.nycourts.gov/ecourts) for any additional information on this case. This opinion is uncorrected and not selected for official publication. .! . [* 1] SHORT FORM ORDER STATE OF NEW YORK SUPREME COURT Present: HON. THOMAS P. PHELAN. Justice TRIAL/IAS PART 2 NASSAU COUNTY KEVIN KEATING, Plaintiff( s ORIGINAL RETURN DATE: 10/03/11 SUBMISSION DATE: 1107/1 -against- INDEX No. : 1897/10 TOWN OF OYSTER BAY and ANCHORAGE , INC. Defendant( s). MOTION SEQUENCE #1 Notice of Motion. . Defendant' s Memorandum of Law. . Plaintiffs Affirmation in Opposition to Amend.. . Plaintiffs Affrmation in Opposition for Summary Judgment.... Reply. . Motion by defendant Town of Oyster Bay (" the Town ) pursuant to CPLR 3025 granting the Town leave to amend its amended answer to assert twelfth and thirteenth affirmative defenses of failure to comply with prior written notice laws and , upon amendment , pursuant to CPLR 3212 , for summar judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross- claims is granted. Motion by defendant Anchorage , Inc. ("Anchorage ), pursuant to CPLR 3212 , for summar judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross- claims against it is denied. In this action plaintiff seeks damages for injuries he sustained at approximately 6:00 PM on January 30 2009 , when he slipped and fell on "black ice " in the parking lot adjacent to the building at 21 West Main Street , Oyster Bay, New York. Defendant Anchorage owns the building and defendant Town owns the parking lot. It had snowed two days earlier , and the temperature at the time was below freezing. .. . . [* 2] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 2 Plaintiff testified that he exited his workplace in the building and could not directly reach the parking lot where his car was parked because a wall or mound of ice was piled on the utility strp between the sidewalk and the curb for the entire length of the parking lot. For this reason , plaintiff made a right turn to walk on the sidewalk and cross over the wall or mound of ice at its lowest point , namely where the ice feet wide. He lifted one leg over the ice was approximately 8 inches high and and placed his foot on the concrete pavement of the parking lot which looked clear. As he was bringing his other leg over the mound , the foot on the ground slipped out from under him , and both legs went up in the air. When he had arrived in the morning he "went straight across the parking lot and up the steps , which did have a mound of solid snow as well" (Keating transcript, p. 72). The president of Anchorage , Ms. Oelsner , testified that it was the job of an employee , Mr. Lightbome , to remove snow and ice at the premises , and , in particular , to clear a path from the parking lot to the sidewalk in two areas , namely, the entrays for the two tenants in the building, one of whom was plaintiff s employer (Oelsner transcript , pp. 37- 38). No testimony was submitted from Mr. Lightbome , and , according to Ms. Oelsner , he no longer works at the premises. One of the Town s witnesses , Mr. Wilcox , testified that the Town employees plowed " curb to curb " and he understood that this meant a build up of snow or ice against the curb line (Wilcox transcript , p. 75). The Town s records show that the subject parking lot was plowed twice in the morning two days prior to plaintiffs fall and that " spot sanding " took place early in the morning of January 29 2009. (S.J. Capelin Assoc., Inc. Summary judgment is the Globe Mfg. Corp. 34 NY2d 338 341 (1974)). The function of the court in deciding a motion for summary judgment is to determine if trable issues of fact v: v (Matter of Suffolk County Dept. of Social Services on prima facie James M 83 NY2d 178 , 182 (1994)). The proponent must procedural equivalent of a trial behalf of Michael exist make a showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law 100 NY2d 72 82 (2003); Alvarez (Giuffrida Citibank Corp. Prospect Hosp. 68 NY2d 320 324 (1986)). .. . . [* 3] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 3 case has been made , the part opposing the motion must come forward with proof in evidentiary form establishing the existence of trable issues prima facie Once a City of New (Zuckerman of fact or an acceptable excuse for its failure to do so York 49 NY2d 557 562 (1980)). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving Forrest NY3d 931 (2007); Loews Orpheum Cinemas, Inc. 3 NY3d 295 , 315 (2004)) Jewish Guildfor the part (Branham Blind, Anchorage seeks summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross- claims on the grounds that it owed no duty to plaintiff, as it did not own , occupy or make any special use of the parking lot in which plaintiff fell. The Town seeks summary judgment on the grounds that it had no prior written notice of the black ice condition on which plaintiff fell and no duty to provide a path to the parking lot. The decision to grant or deny leave to amend is commtted to the court' s discretion City of New (Edenwald Contracting Co. York 60 NY2d 957 959 (1983)). Leave to amend pleadings pursuant to CPLR 3025(b) should be freely granted in the absence of prejudice or surprise to the opponent , unless the proposed amendment is palpably insufficient or devoid of Lester 84 AD3d 1065 (2 Dept 2011); (Truebright Co. 82 AD3d 1175 (2 Dept Maya , Inc. and mere lateness is not a barrier , Ltd merit on its face Angelo Balbo Realty Corp., s Black Creek LLC 81 AD3d 799 (2 Larson, 2011); Palau Dept 2011); Turturro City of New York 77 AD3d 732 (2 Dept 2010)). Leave to amend the pleadings to identify a specific ordinance or code provision may properly be granted , even after the note of issue has been filed " where the pleader makes a showing of merit and the amendment involves no new factual allegations , raises no new theories of liability and causes no prejudice to the New York Racing Assn. , Inc 85 AD3d 1121 , 1123 (2 Dept opposing City of New York 81 A. 3d 682 684 (2 Dept 2011), City of New York 54 A. 3d 308 310 (2 Dept 2008)), part D'Elia 2011), citing quoting (Jara Galarraga v. v. In derogation of the common law , a municipality may avoid liability for injuries [* 4] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 4 sustained as a result of defects or hazardous conditions on its public propert by means of prior wrtten notification City of Buffalo 93 NY2d 471 (1999)). The prior wrtten notification laws at issue here are the Code of the Town 16065-a(l). The Town seeks leave to amend its amended answer to add affirmative defenses based on this ordinance and statute. It admts that its citation in its 65-a(2), which deals with defects in sidewalks , was inadvertent. It now seeks to cite the correct provision for defects in highways , a provision which has been constred to Village of Mamaroneck 17 NY3d 125 (2011)). laws of Oyster Bay (Amabile (A) and Town Law amended answer of Town Law include parking lots (Groninger Plaintiff can claim no surprise as he expressly alleged compliance with prior wrtten notification laws in his complaint (complaint . 32). The proposed amendments plainly have merit and do not allege any new theories or factual allegations. As to prejudice , plaintiff points only to the previously undisclosed Bibla Notice of Claim alleging a fall on snow and ice in the same Town parking lot in 2007(The Town s Ex. K). However this Notice of Claim describes the area of Ms. Bibla s fall as that part of the parking lot adjacent to the premises located at 138 South Road , not the location identified by plaintiff herein. On this record the Bib1a Notice of Claim is not evidence of prior wrtten notice to the Town of the condition which caused plaintiffs fall and , therefore , not a source of prejudice to the plaintiff. Consequently, the Town s request for leave to amend is hereby granted. The Town has established that it received no prior wrtten notification of the "black ice " condition in the subject parking lot prior to plaintiffs fall. Furthermore there is no allegation of prior wrtten notice of any defective condition in the parking lot resulting from the Town s method of plowing the parking field from curb- to-curb. burden to establish no liability and the burden now shifts to plaintiff to raise an issue of fact supporting liability against the Town Village of Rockville Centre 39 AD3d 528 (2 Dept 2007)), The Town has met its prima facie (Shannon An exception to the prior wrtten notice laws exists where the municipality creates [* 5] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 5 the defective condition through an affirmtive act of City of Here plaintiff strves to make a case that the Town s conduct in plowing curb- to-curb , and in failing to take any snow- clearing measures despite five hours of air temperatures above 32 degrees on the day before plaintiffs fall , raises a trable issue of fact as to the Town s creation of defective conditions which caused plaintiffs fall. Neither argument is successful. negligence (Amabile Buffalo). (16 NY3d 111 (2010)), a black ice case , where the municipality had plowed the snow from a Plaintiff relies upon San Marco Village/Town of Mount Kisco there was evidence that the air temperature had risen above freezing for approximately 19 hours after the plowing and then dropped and that the municipality did not employ a work crew on weekends although the parking lot was open seven days a week. The Court of Appeals found that plaintiff raised trable issues of fact as to whether the municipality exercised its duty of care by plowing snow high alongside active parking spaces and in failing to salt or sand on weekends an open parking lot. parking lot into a row of meters adjacent to the parking spaces. In San Marco, is not applicable because plaintiffs Site Specific Weather Analysis Report (Pl' s. Ex. 7) is unsworn and not made in the regular course of business and Walter Eberhart LP No. 71 AD3d 491 (1 st Brunatti , 50 AD3d 111 0 (2 Dybowski 227 AD2d 228 (1 st Dept 1996)). While the climatological data submitted may be certified , it is data that Midtown Realty Co. , 193 AD2d 45 (1 st 1993)). No expert testimony has been submitted. On this record , there is no admissible evidence of temperatures for the period between the Town plowing and the plaintiffs fall. San Marco therefore inadmissible Dept 2010); 1212 (Frees Ocean Avenue Housing Development Corp. Dept 2010); see requires expert testimony Frank Bendik (Viacom International Inc Moreover , even if the climatological data were admissible , this data does not appear to establish any kind of extended thaw in this case. A brief rise above freezing temperatures for a few hours on Januar 29 2009 , is not a condition which [* 6] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 6 would give a municipality notice that black ice may have formed in the parking lot. rejects: it would effectively San Marco To hold otherwise would do exactly what require municipalities to remove all snow off premises in order to avoid liability. Smith Plaintiff s further reliance upon (51 AD3d 1006 (2d Dept are not County of Orange Smith 2008)) is unavailing because the facts underlying the decision in presented in the decision therein. Plaintiffs challenge to the Town s curb- to-curb snow removal practice fares no better. The plowing of snow against curbs in and of itself is not evidence of City of White Plains 5 AD3d 434 (2d Dept (Forman negligent snow removal of New York 296 NY 869 (1947); see also City (Davis 2004), nor is causing snow to be piled on the sidewalk near the curb City of New York, 276 Borkowski AD770 (2d Dept 1949), affd 301 NY 770 (1950)). Siddon The only cases cited by plaintiff that support municipal liability are Fishman Co. Brownell 712 (2001)), In (65 AD2d 832 (3 Dept 1978), app den 46 NY2d 714 (1979)) and Dept 2000), Iv app den 96 NY2d (277 AD2d 31 Siddon the municipality was found to be liable for the creation of City of New York two- foot high snowbanks between the parking meters in a parking lot , because the snowbanks were on the municipal lot and there was no alternate means of ingress or egress from the lot. Furthermore , the prior practice of the Department of Public Works had been to remove the snowbanks. The facts Siddon taken together distinguish it from the case at bar. of Brownell a jury verdict for plaintiff who fell on an icy sidewalk was supported by evidence that defendant' s snow removal procedures caused snow to accumulate near curb cuts , and that defendant's salt-spreading caused snow to melt and refreeze at the curb cuts. Here again , curb cuts belong to the municipality and , of necessity, must be passable. In Based on the foregoing, plaintiff has failed to raise a trable issue of fact as to [* 7] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 7 whether the Town s snow removal efforts created a hazardous condition in the subject parking lot. Accordingly, the Town s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross- claims against it must be granted. At the outset , the Court notes for the record that Anchorage cannot be held liable for the alleged black ice condition in the Town s parking lot. That conclusion however , does not mandate summary judgment dismissing the complaint against Anchorage. Absent a duty of care to the person injured, one cannot be held liable in negligence (Palsgrafv Long Island R. R. Co. 248 NY 339 342 (1928)). A landowner has a duty to maintain its propert in a reasonably safe condition under all of the Miller 40 NY2d 233 241 (1976)). Possession and control are key tests for premises liability, because the person in possession and control of the premises is the best able to identify and prevent harm to others (see generally 100 NY2d 265, 270 (2003)). Possession , as well as (Basso circumstances Butler ex rei Butler control Pizza Rafferty, , are elements that give rise to the duty of reasonable care Pasta, Inc. 53 AD3d 535 (2 (Quick Dept 2008); Franks G. ' G&H Real Estate Incorporated Village of 16 AD3d 619 (2 Delma Engineering Lynbrook 19 AD3d 565 (2 139 AD2d 292 (1 st Dept), app dsmd in part and den in part , 73 NY2d 783 (1988)). Holding Corp. Nappi Dept 2005); see Balsam Dept 2005); see also Corp., Anchorage plainly had possession and control of the sidewalks and walkways outside its building, and it recognized this duty as Mr. Lightborne was hired to clear these areas of snow and ice, However , because Anchorage could not establish whether Mr. Lightbome removed the ice and snow from the walkways of its propert on Januar 30 , 2009 , or the two days prior (Oelsner transcript, pp. 5860), it has failed to make out aprimafacie case (Carthans Grenadier Realty Corp. 38 AD3d 489 (2 Dept 2007)). Furthermore , while Anchorage had no duty to clear an unpaved area that was not ---""-----)---' , -.--'- .. ::-:,-,------ [* 8] RE: Keating v Town of Oyster Bay and Anchorage Page 8 intended to be a walkway, triable issues of fact are presented as to whether the paved walkway between the sidewalk and the parking lot was suitable for pedestrian traffic at the time of plaintiffs fall and, ifnot , whether that was a substantial factor in causing Grenadier Realty Corp. Alice Hyde Hosp. Assn 297 AD2d 425 (3 North Isle Village, Inc. 48 ADd3d 760 (2 Dept 2008)). plaintiffs fall (Carthans Malley Marmol Dept 2002); see also Based on the ' foregoing, the motion by Anchorage for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross- claims against it must be denied. The caption of the action is hereby amended to read as follows: KEVIN KEATING Plaintiff( s -against - ANCHORAGE, INC. Defendant(s). " This decision constitutes the order of the court. !-ON THOM P. PHLAN Dated: Attorneys of Record Guercio & Guercio Attorneys for Plaintiff 77 Conkin Street Farmingdale, NY 11735 Burns, Russo, Tamigi & Reardon Attorneys for Defendant Town of Oyster Bay 390 Old Country Road Garden City, NY 11530 Wilson , Elser , Moskowitz , et al. Attorneys for Defendant Anchorage 150 East 42nd Street New York , NY 10017 ENTERED JAN 1 2 2012 tt88AU COUNTY COUNT Clm' s OfPtCl