Workers Compensation Bar extends to non-employer building owner in Labor Law action by superintendent

Carlos Vasquez v. 301 West 111 Owners LLP and 557-561 West 149 LLC and 557 West 149 Corporation, Supreme Court, New York County, October 27, 2010

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In a “scaffold law” action brought by an apartment building superintendent against the building owner, Justice Paul Wooten granted the owner’s motion for summary judgment, based upon the owner’s Workers Compensation defense. The superintendent was indisputably an employee of the property manager of the building, and was injured while changing tubes in the filter of the boiler in the defendant’s building. He had received Workers Compensation benefits through the property manager’s policy. The superintendent nonetheless commenced a parallel action against the owner. AGF&J member Steven DiSiervi and associate Bridget Quinn argued, on motion for summary judgment, that the owner functioned as a “single integrated entity” with the property manager employer and thus should be entitled to immunity from tort liability under Workers Compensation Law section 11. Plaintiff contended that the Management Contract between the owner and property manager showed that the latter acted as the owner’s agent, and that the Workers Compensation bar did not apply in that context. Yet plaintiff did not rebut the wealth of evidence put forward showing that the owner was the “alter ego” of the principals of the property manager, and the Contract actually supported the finding of an alter ego. Thus the Court granted the owner’s motion, dismissing all claims against it.