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While Use Of Man-Lift Results In Death, Employer, Repairer, Inspector and Manufacturer Not Liable

October 9, 2008

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In Altinma v. East 72nd Garage Corp et al, plaintiff’s decedent sustained fatal injuries when he was allegedly pinned beneath a single-person vertical transportation device called a man-lift while working at Somerset Garage in Manhattan. Plaintiff brought this action against East 72nd, the garage license holder, Ace Overhead Garage Door Inc, the entity that repaired the man-lift on an as-needed basis and Charles Calderone Associates Inc, the entity that performed annual inspections of the man-lift. Multiple third-party actions were commenced, including an action in strict products liability against Humphrey Man-Lift Corp, the man-lift manufacturer. All of the original parties and Humphrey moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted East 72nd summary judgment as against plaintiff, but denied summary judgment as to cross-claims. Humphrey was also awarded summary judgment and all of the original parties appealed.
The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the trial court’s decision and granted summary judgment to Ace and Calderone and affirmed the trial court’s decision as to East 72nd and Humphrey. Unpersuaded by plaintiff’s arguments that Ace and Calderone may have in the performance of their duties failed to properly inspect or warn so to “launch a force or instrument of harm,” the Appellate Court found as a matter of law they did not owe a duty to the non-contracting plaintiff. For East 72nd, the trial court correctly found the decedent to be a special employee and dismissed the action pursuant Workers’ Compensation Law §11. However, since the decedent suffered a grave injury, co-defendants’ cross-claims for indemnification and/or contribution remained viable. Lastly, since there was no triable issue of fact as to whether Humphrey marketed the man-lift that was not reasonably safe or that the alleged defective design of the man-lift was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injury, the decision to grant Humphrey summary judgment was affirmed.
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