Eaves Brooks Costume Co., Inc. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp.

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtWACHTLER
Parties, 556 N.E.2d 1093 EAVES BROOKS COSTUME COMPANY, INC., Also Known as Eaves Costume Co., Inc., Appellant, v. Y.B.H. REALTY CORP. et al., Defendants, and M. Lionel Aprill et al., Doing Business as New York Automatic Sprinkler Service Co., et al., Respondents.
Decision Date12 June 1990

Page 286

557 N.Y.S.2d 286
76 N.Y.2d 220, 556 N.E.2d 1093
EAVES BROOKS COSTUME COMPANY, INC., Also Known as Eaves
Costume Co., Inc., Appellant,
v.
Y.B.H. REALTY CORP. et al., Defendants,
and
M. Lionel Aprill et al., Doing Business as New York
Automatic Sprinkler Service Co., et al., Respondents.
Court of Appeals of New York.
June 12, 1990.

[76 N.Y.2d 221] Kenneth D. Goldberg, Jack L. Cohen, Richard P. Marin and Steven H. Beldock, New York City, for appellant.

Steven Farmer, Garden City, for M. Lionel Aprill, respondent.

Charles P. Duffy, New York City, for Wells Fargo Alarm Services, respondent.

Page 287

[76 N.Y.2d 222] [556 N.E.2d 1094] HOPINION OF THE COURT

WACHTLER, Chief Judge.

This is an action to recover for property damage sustained by a commercial tenant when a fire sprinkler system malfunctioned and flooded the leased premises. The question presented on this appeal is whether the tenant can recover against the two companies under contract with the building's owners to inspect the sprinkler system and to maintain an alarm system.

We agree with the Appellate Division, 149 A.D.2d 652, 540 N.Y.S.2d 464, that the complaint should be dismissed as against those two defendants. We rest [76 N.Y.2d 223] our decision, however, not on the distinction between misfeasance and nonfeasance relied upon by that court to determine whether a contractual duty could give rise to tort liability to a third party, but rather on a weighing of the policy considerations applicable generally to the question whether a tort duty should be so extended. Based upon these considerations, we conclude that the alleged negligence of those defendants in performing their contractual obligations did not breach any duty of care owed to plaintiff.

Plaintiff Eaves Brooks Costume Company is in the business of renting and selling costumes for the theatre industry. In 1981, Eaves Brooks leased the top four floors of a building located in Long Island City and owned by defendants Y.B.H. Realty Corp. and Photostam Companies, Inc. * The building was equipped with a fire sprinkler system covering 96,000 square feet and including approximately 1,000 sprinkler heads.

At the relevant times, defendant New York Automatic Sprinkler Service Co. was under contract with the building's owners to inspect the sprinkler system and to report all service needs to them. The contract called for 12 inspections per year, at a yearly cost of $120. The contract price was for inspection only and did not obligate New York Automatic to provide maintenance. The contract further provided that New York Automatic "shall be under no liability except as herein expressly set forth, and, in no event shall its aggregate liability for damages, whatever the cause and whether or not due to negligence, be greater than One Hundred ($100) Dollars, unless at the time of the execution hereof, the parties agree in writing upon a greater liability in consideration of an additional sum to be paid by Subscriber". There is no dispute that New York Automatic had in fact conducted such inspections for several years.

Similarly, defendant Wells Fargo Alarm Services was under contract with the owners to install and maintain a central station fire alarm system in the building. Pursuant to this contract, Wells Fargo installed a "paddle switch" to detect water flow in the sprinkler system and to send a signal to Wells Fargo's offices in the event that the sprinkler system was activated. The annual charge for this service was $660. [76 N.Y.2d 224] The contract limited Wells Fargo's liability as follows: "It is understood that Wells Fargo is not an insurer; that insurance shall be obtained by Subscriber, if any is desired; that the sums payable hereunder * * * are based upon the value of services offered and the scope of liability undertaken and such sums are not related to the value of property belonging to Subscriber or to others located on Subscriber's premises * * *. It is agreed that if Wells Fargo should be found liable for any losses or damages attributable to a failure of systems or services in any respect, its liability shall be limited to a sum equal to ten percent of the annual charge hereunder, or $250.00, whichever is greater. The Subscriber may obtain a greater limitation of liability, if desired, by payment of an increased annual rate, which shall be negotiated between the Subscriber and Wells Fargo upon the request of the Subscriber in writing."

According to plaintiff's allegations, on or about Saturday, November 14, 1981, a sprinkler head on the fifth floor of the building malfunctioned and began discharging water at a rate of about 2,760

Page 288

[556 N.E.2d 1095] gallons per hour. The building was unoccupied over the weekend and the alarm system failed to operate. Thus, the flooding continued...

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185 practice notes
  • Landon v. Kroll Lab. Specialists, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • November 22, 2011
    ...the promisor in favor of the promisee and any intended third-party beneficiaries ( see Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093). On the other hand, “[a] tort obligation is a duty imposed by law to avoid causing injury to others”......
  • Am. Ins. Co. v. City of Jamestown, No. 10–CV–834–A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • October 22, 2012
    ...of law for the Court. Palka, 83 N.Y.2d at 585, 611 N.Y.S.2d 817, 634 N.E.2d 189 (1994); Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226–27, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093 (1990). New York courts generally determine a common law duty of care: by balancing factors, incl......
  • Santos v. DEANCO Servs., Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • July 13, 2016
    ...v. Melville Snow Contrs., 98 N.Y.2d at 138–139, 746 N.Y.S.2d 120, 773 N.E.2d 485, citing Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093, and Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., 247 N.Y. 160, 159 N.E. 896 ; see also Stiver v. Good & Fair ......
  • Doona v. Onesource Holdings Inc, No. 06-CV-00894 (DLI)(VVP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • January 7, 2010
    ...Snow Contractors, Inc., 98 N.Y.2d 136, 746 N.Y.S.2d 120, 773 N.E.2d 485, 487 (2002); Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093 (1990); Kaehler-Hendrix v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 58 A.D.3d 604, 605-06, 871 N.Y.S.2d 359 (2d Dep't 2009). ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
181 cases
  • Landon v. Kroll Lab. Specialists, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • November 22, 2011
    ...the promisor in favor of the promisee and any intended third-party beneficiaries ( see Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093). On the other hand, “[a] tort obligation is a duty imposed by law to avoid causing injury to others”......
  • Am. Ins. Co. v. City of Jamestown, No. 10–CV–834–A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • October 22, 2012
    ...of law for the Court. Palka, 83 N.Y.2d at 585, 611 N.Y.S.2d 817, 634 N.E.2d 189 (1994); Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226–27, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093 (1990). New York courts generally determine a common law duty of care: by balancing factors, incl......
  • Santos v. DEANCO Servs., Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • July 13, 2016
    ...v. Melville Snow Contrs., 98 N.Y.2d at 138–139, 746 N.Y.S.2d 120, 773 N.E.2d 485, citing Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 226, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093, and Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., 247 N.Y. 160, 159 N.E. 896 ; see also Stiver v. Good & Fair ......
  • Doona v. Onesource Holdings Inc, No. 06-CV-00894 (DLI)(VVP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • January 7, 2010
    ...Snow Contractors, Inc., 98 N.Y.2d 136, 746 N.Y.S.2d 120, 773 N.E.2d 485, 487 (2002); Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093 (1990); Kaehler-Hendrix v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 58 A.D.3d 604, 605-06, 871 N.Y.S.2d 359 (2d Dep't 2009). ......
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