Interior gate not required for freight elevator under Code in 1923; Court dismisses Complaint for injuries suffered on manually operated freight elevator

William Romero v. Waterfront N.Y., et al, 19852/2009 ((Sup.Ct. Kings Cty. 2016)

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In a twenty-seven page decision, Justice David B. Vaughan granted summary judgment, dismissing a personal injury Complaint by an elevator operator, in its entirety.

Plaintiff sustained substantial injuries to his foot and ankle in a freight elevator in a building owned by, or leased to, the defendants. His heel became caught between the moving elevator platform and the fourth floor landing. He sued the building owners, as well as an elevator inspection company. The owners sought indemnification and contribution from their lessors, via a Third-party Complaint.

Plaintiff advanced several arguments according to which the elevator did not comply with industry practice, or was in a hazardous condition. However, the defendants showed these arguments were conclusory and unsupported. The Court held, "[I]nasmuch as the freight elevator was not defective in any manner, was fully in compliance with all applicable codes, regulations, and laws, had passed all inspections over the years, and had no existing violations at the time of the accident, and since the [owners] had no legal obligation to upgrade or otherwise alter the freight elevator's existing design, there is no basis to impose liability upon the [owners] for plaintiff's injuries."

Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed as to all defendants, which rendered the motions concerning the Third party Complaint moot. The Court nevertheless addressed that portion of the owner's motion against the third party tenant employer and found that the contractual indemnity clauses in the lease would be enforced and not be contrary to the General Obligations Law.

AGF&J partner Chris Christofides briefed and argued the motion on behalf of the owners.