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HRRV in the Courtroom 2018

Superior Court, Queens County
Index No. 15788/09
August21, 2018

HRRV Wins Wrongful Death Case in Patron Fall from Escalator

HRRV has obtained summary judgment on behalf of Sterling Mets, L.P. (“Sterling”), Queens Ballpark Company, L.L.C. (“QBC”) , Sterling Equities, L.L.C. (“Equities”) and the City of New York (the “City”) in a wrongful death case arising out of a tragic fall from an upper deck escalator at Shea Stadium (the “Stadium”).

Plaintiffs’ decedent fell from a stationary escalator when it allegedly malfunctioned and suddenly jerked, thereby propelling him over the handrail of the escalator and onto an escalator located two floors below. He sustained fatal injuries and his autopsy confirmed that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.16%.

His estate commenced an action and alleged a panoply of claims relating to the security, maintenance, design, manufacture, inspection, and repair of the escalators and the Stadium, as well as additional claims of strict products liability negligence, p and breach of warranty claims against the escalator manufacturer and the escalator maintenance contractor at the Stadium. The Sterling, City, QBC, Equities commended a third-party action against the alcohol concessionaire.

After discovery and depositions, including depositions of numerous non-party witnesses, the New York City Police Department detectives who investigated the accident and the New York City Department of Buildings inspector who confirmed that the subject escalator was functioning without issue before and immediately after the alleged accident, all defendants moved for summary judgment. Summary judgment was granted on behalf of all defendants because plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient proof to support each and every cause of action.

Specifically with regard to Sterling and the City (QBC and Equities established as a matter of law that they did not own, occupy, possess, control or put to a special use the subject escalator and that they did not have any rights or obligations to maintain that property or the subject escalator), the Supreme Court, Queens County establish liability because the escalator was not defective or an unreasonably foreseeable hazard. Likewise, they demonstrated through expert evidence, that the alleged accident could not have happened as plaintiff alleged. The various escalator industry standards and Building Code violations alleged by plaintiff pertaining to the subject escalator were similarly defeated and shown to be either irrelevant or inapplicable.

Further plaintiffs’ claims that Sterling was negligent due to a putative failure to enforce its policy of barricading escalators in the seventh inning of a baseball game so that patrons leave the stadium via ramps were rejected by the court. The court cited to a line of cases holding that the violation of a company’s internal rules is not negligence in and of itself and that where, as here, when an internal policy exceeded the standard of reasonable care, that policy cannot serve as a basis for imposing liability.

Carla Varriale represented Sterling, QBC, the City, Equities and QBC.

Scaley-Schaefer v. Brusca
Supreme Court, Nassau County
Index No. 10064/2015
January 16, 2018

Summary Judgment Granted to Festival Organizer in Connection with Golf Cart Accident

The Oyster Festival is an annual event held in Oyster Bay, New York, featuring an oyster eating contest, a handcrafts tent, live music, various food vendors and other attractions. It is organized by the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund. On October 19, 2013, plaintiff Margaret Scaley-Schaefer attended the festival with multiple family members. She was involved in an accident and eventually filed suit.

While standing near a food vendor, Scaley-Schaefer’s foot was run over by a golf cart driven by Robert Brusca, who was affiliated with two nonprofit organizations that were serving as food vendors. Brusca had just delivered food obtained from a nearby restaurant to the tent of one of the vendors, and was in the process of returning the cart to its parking location. He was not employed by or otherwise affiliated with the Oyster Bay Fund.

Scaley-Schafer and her husband — asserting a derivative claim — filed suit against the Oyster Bay Fund, Brusca and the two nonprofit organizations that he was affiliated with. They asserted that all of the named defendants were negligent for allowing her accident to occur. Specifically as to the Oyster Bay Fund, they asserted that inadequate protocols were in place to avoid the occurrence of accidents like the one in question.

HRRV, on behalf of the Oyster Bay Fund, moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not affiliated with Brusca and therefore could not be held liable for the accident as a matter of law. More specifically, and in addition to other arguments, HRRV asserted that any alleged action or inaction on the part of the Oyster Bay Fund was not the proximate cause of the accident, as any fault for the happening of the accident was attributable to Brusca’s failure to exercise due care. It was noted that Brusca’s actions, or inaction, constituted an independent, intervening act, severing the nexus between any claimed negligence attributed to the Oyster Bay Fund.

In opposition, counsel for Scaley-Schaefer and her husband as well as counsel for some of the co-defendants, argued that the Oyster Bay Fund should have set up lanes of travel for golf carts throughout the Oyster Festival, so as to ensure that they were not used in pedestrian areas. HRRV argued that there was no factual, expert or legal basis to indicate that the Oyster Bay Fund was under any obligation to do so.

HRRV’s summary judgment motion on behalf of the Oyster Bay Fund was granted by Judge James P. McCormack of Supreme Court, Nassau County. The judge noted that the Oyster Bay Fund met its burden as a matter of law on the issue of proximate cause, holding that Brusca’s “actions in the manner in which he drove the cart [were] an intervening, [superseding] cause.” In opposition, Judge McCormack noted that the other parties did not address the issue of proximate cause and, in any event, offered “no evidence or legal argument” to establish that the Oyster Bay Fund “should have arranged for specific cordoned-off lanes in which the golf carts could travel.” He therefore granted summary judgment to the Oyster Bay Fund.

Carla Varriale and Shawn Schatzle represented the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome

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