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NY: Summary Judgment and the Underlying Case

Middleton v. Kenny,286 A.D.2d 957;731 N.Y.S.2d 425 (4th Dept.2001)

NY:Underlying Personal Injury Action

Student Contributor: Natalie Resto

Facts: The plaintiff in the underlying action sued the architects, engineers and HVAC contractors for the alleged exposure to fumes and chemicals at their workplace. The appellate division dismissed the underlying action holding that the lower court abused its discretion in granting the plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time to file a note of issue after having been served with a 90-day demand pursuant to CPLR 3216. The defendant attorneys argued that the court erred in denying their cross motion seeking summary judgment because the plaintiff’s employer, not them, was the one responsible for the ventilation problem.

Issue: Did the attorneys submit evidence establishing as a matter of law that plaintiff would have been successful in the underlying action?

Ruling: No. The court found that the conflicting opinions of the experts presented issues of credibility to be determined by a trier of fact. The court held that the defendants were negligent in failing to respond to the 90-day demand and ordered a trial on the issues of proximate cause and damages.

Lesson: Even if the attorney can substantiate that someone else, here the employer, was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the attorneys still need to establish as a matter of law that the plaintiff would have been unsuccessful in the underlying action. 

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Posted in: Litigation, New York, Proximate Cause