PPD Wins Summary Judgment on Behalf of Albany Based Construction Company
By: mborst

In a negligence suit filed in Dutchess County, the plaintiff, a home economics teacher alleged that she tripped over computer wires in her classroom as a result of the negligence of the construction management company, which was represented by Phelan, Phelan & Danek, LLP. The plaintiff allegedly suffered a fractured kneecap and torn meniscus as a result of her fall.

The plaintiff alleged that the construction manager, architectural firm, and subcontractor responsible for the installation of cabinetry collectively failed to install a grommet (a hole for the placement of wires) in her computer desk which was called for in the classroom blueprints. The plaintiff argued that had the defendants fulfilled their contractual obligations, the grommet would have been installed, the wires would have been secured, and no injury would have resulted. Although not directly responsible for the installation of the grommets, it was alleged that the construction company failed to fulfill its duties under its contract with the school district by failing to properly inspect the subcontractor’s work.

Phelan, Phelan & Danek strongly defended the action, moving for summary judgment at the close of discovery based primarily on the Court of Appeal case Espinal v. Melville Snow Contrs., 98 NY2d 136 (2002), for which a contractual obligation will not give rise to tort liability in favor of a third party. The court held that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence of an affirmative act by the construction manager in creating the condition, and that any failures by the construction manager resulted in the absence of a small hole in the desk, which is not in and of itself, a dangerous condition. In granting PPD’s motion for summary judgment, the court ultimately held that the construction manager’s alleged failures did not give rise to liability in negligence to a third-party based solely upon contractual privity with the school district.

The case was defended by PPD Associate Joe Slater.