A New York judge has dismissed all but one labor claim against New York Crane & Equipment Corp., the owner of a crane that collapsed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2008. But Judge Manuel J. Mendez allowed other allegations and claims for punitive damages to move forward against the company and its affiliates. Under the applicable laws, New York Crane’s President James Lomma and affiliated companies J.F. Lomma Inc. and TES Inc. could not be found liable for labor law claims relating to the 2008 accident that killed four people. That was because the crane was leased to Sorbara Construction Corp.
But the group of defendants will still have to face claims under Section 200 of New York Labor Law, which requires that a property owner or contractor maintain a safe construction site when it has authority over the equipment or activity that causes an accident. Judge Mendez’s order stated:
This court recognizes that there is more than one theory as to what caused the crane collapse. There remain issues of fact regarding the proximate cause of the accident and the New York Crane defendants’ liability. The plaintiff has sufficiently raised issues of fact with respect to the alleged gross negligence of the New York Crane defendants in relation to the punitive damages claim.
In the same motion for summary judgment, Lomma contended that the claims lacked the basis to pierce the corporate veil and find him personally liable because he only acted in his capacity as president of New York Crane. J.F. Lomma Inc. and TES also argued in the motion for summary judgment that the companies had no parent or subsidiary relationship with New York Crane and therefore could not be found liable for the accident.
Judge Mendez rejected each of those arguments, ruling that there were enough questions of fact surrounding the relationships and actions of all three parties for the remaining claims to move forward to trial. In February, Judge Mendez refused to grant summary judgment for Sorbara Construction and a welding company, Brady Marine Repair Co. Inc. in separate actions involving labor and other claims relating to the same crane accident. Sorbara Construction argued that, as a subcontractor, it could not be liable for negligence and labor law claims. Judge Mendez rejected that argument, but he did dismiss one labor law claim made by the Plaintiffs related to the alleged failure to provide “exceptional protection” to workers on the ground.
Judge Mendez noted that he could not imagine any safety device that could protect the workers from a crane “crashing to the ground from such a great height.” The judge also denied a motion for summary judgment filed by Brady Marine, a company that completed welding work on the crane. That company argued that it had never worked on the weld that failed and caused the crane to crash. In his ruling, Judge Mendez referred to an inspection report provided by the Plaintiffs that ostensibly proves that a company hired to test Brady’s welds informed it that the weld in question had not been properly completed.
The Plaintiffs in this matter are represented by Susan Karten with Susan M. Karten & Associates, a New York City firm. It will be interesting to see how this case, based on New York law, turns out. It involves a number of claims involving a number of related Defendants.
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