Summary Judgment Without Deposition discovery Permitted In NY Labor Law Case
Courts often deny early summary judgment motions on the basis that they are premature pending completion of discovery on the issues in dispute. In Lapota v. PPC Commercial, LLC, the Appellate Division, First Department took a different approach in examining a trial court’s decision to deny plaintiff’s early motion for summary judgment as to his Labor Law §240 (1) claim against the defendant. The Court based its determination on affidavits of the plaintiff and his co-worker which stated that plaintiff’s accident occurred when an unstable ladder he was using, which was missing rubber feet, shifted and caused plaintiff to fall. The work performed by the plaintiff was covered under Labor Law section 240 (1).
In reversing the lower court’s decision, the First Department rejected defendant’s argument that plaintiff’s motion was premature since depositions had not been taken. The Court reasoned that though depositions were not taken, summary judgment was not precluded since the defendant failed to show that discovery might lead to facts that would support its opposition to the motion and that facts essential to its opposition were exclusively within the knowledge of the plaintiff. The Court did not agree with defendant’s argument that plaintiff’s deposition testimony might further illuminate issues raised by the affidavits. The Court reasoned that mere hope that evidence sufficient to defeat summary judgment may be uncovered during discovery was insufficient to defeat summary judgment.
This case serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of defendants under the Labor Law and the importance of conducting prompt discovery in Labor Law cases where the possibility of early motion practice exists.
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