Renn v. Airline of Finland, No. 87 Civ. 6241 (JMW).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtCarole Burns, Newman Schlau Fitch & Burns, P.C., New York City, for defendant
Citation702 F. Supp. 1077
Decision Date10 January 1989
Docket NumberNo. 87 Civ. 6241 (JMW).
PartiesRobert RENN and Mary Renn, Plaintiffs, v. AIRLINE OF FINLAND d/b/a Finnair, Defendant. FINNAIR OY, Third Party Plaintiff, v. UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Third Party Defendant.

702 F. Supp. 1077

Robert RENN and Mary Renn, Plaintiffs,
v.
AIRLINE OF FINLAND d/b/a Finnair, Defendant.

FINNAIR OY, Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Third Party Defendant.

No. 87 Civ. 6241 (JMW).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

January 10, 1989.


702 F. Supp. 1078

Carl Lustig, III, Arye, Kors & Lustig, P.C., New York City, for plaintiffs.

Carole Burns, Newman Schlau Fitch & Burns, P.C., New York City, for defendant.

Edward C. DeVivo, Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives, New York City, for third-party defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WALKER, District Judge:

Plaintiffs Robert and Mary Renn originally filed suit against defendant Airline of Finland ("Finnair") seeking $2.25 million in damages, plus costs and interest, for injuries allegedly sustained by Robert Renn as a result of falling from a ladder during the course of his employment. Plaintiffs contend that Renn's injuries were caused by defendant. Defendant then filed a cross claim against third party defendant United Airlines, Inc. ("United") to recover whatever might be paid in a judgment favorable to plaintiffs. United removed the action from state court to this Court. Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332; defendant is a foreign corporation licensed and authorized to do business in New York. Currently before this Court are plaintiff's and defendant's cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.P. 56. After reviewing the papers before it and the relevant law, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Each side has moved for summary judgment. The Federal Rules authorize summary judgment where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact ..." Fed.R. Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine dispute exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Although the burden is on the moving party to show that no relevant facts are in dispute, the nonmoving party may not rely simply "on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 12 (2d Cir.1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932, 107 S.Ct. 1570, 94 L.Ed.2d 762 (1987). Further, if the evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims is meager, the moving party may simply point "out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Thus, this Court must "assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried, while resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences against the moving party." Knight, 804 F.2d at 11.

Because the Court will grant defendant's motion, it accepts as true plaintiffs' description of the events at issue. However, the essential facts are not in dispute. Finnair leases office space from United at the United Airlines Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK"). Plaintiff Robert Renn is employed by United as a Building Maintenance Electrician. United

702 F. Supp. 1079
provides maintenance services to its tenants, including Finnair. The lease agreement between Finnair and United contains the following clause
Lessee Finnair shall make no changes, alterations, additions or improvements, or do any work in connection therewith in, on or about the premises without the prior written consent of the lessor.

Lease ¶ 3. The contract between Finnair and United also states that the lessor is responsible for making all structural repairs to the premises and performing all maintenance work. ¶ 7; See Exhibit L to Def. Motion for Summary Judgment.

Sometime on or before January 10, 1986, United instructed Renn to perform certain electrical work that had been requested by Finnair in connection with the installation of a new computer. On the morning of January 10, Renn arrived at the Finnair office before it was open for business. He removed a ladder from Finnair's office. While on a stairwell landing, which shares a common wall with Finnair's office, plaintiff fell from that ladder and sustained certain injuries. The stairwell landing, where plaintiff fell, is in a common area not leased by Finnair. United completed an accident report, dated January 10, 1988. For the purposes of defendant's motion, the Court further assumes that Renn had defendant's implied permission to use its ladder, and that the ladder was defective. See Aff. of Carl Lustig, III at ¶ 11.

Reading the papers submitted to the Court by the parties, it becomes clear that this dispute is not over the essential facts but rather over how the relevant legal authorities should be interpreted. See, e.g., Lustig Aff. at ¶ 10 ("Defendant's motion must be denied because its papers betray a fundamental misapprehension of the Labor Law, under which this case is brought.") Plaintiffs seek to impose liability on defendant pursuant to Section 240(1) of the Labor Law of New York ("§ 240(1)").1 The parties agree that § 240(1) controls their motions for summary judgment. See, e.g., Lustig Aff. at ¶ 10. The Court now turns to that provision.

DISCUSSION

As a federal court sitting in diversity, this Court must, of course, construe the New York Labor Law in a manner consistent with New York State court interpretations of the statute. Section 240(1) states:

All contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings, who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, clearing or painting of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangars, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.

In an attempt to insure a safe workplace, this section has consistently been interpreted liberally by New York courts, and imposes absolute liability. See, e.g., Pereira v. A.D. Herman Construction Co., 74 A.D.2d 531, 425 N.Y.S.2d 308 (1st Dep't 1980). Defendant argues that, as a lessee,

702 F. Supp. 1080
it does not fall within the reach of the section, which applies only to "all contractors and owners and their agents." Plaintiffs argue that the broad language of the section, together with the remedial purpose of the statute, supports their motion for summary judgment. The Court disagrees with plaintiffs

The language of Section 240(1) must be interpreted "in light of the historical development of these provisions." Russin v. Louis Picciano & Son, 54 N.Y.2d 311, 445...

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1 practice notes
  • US v. Broccolo, No. 91 Cr. 902 (SWK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 9, 1992
    ...by defendant to cover any improprieties 797 F. Supp. 1191 that the scheme to defraud Staples might involve, see United States v. Ruiz, 702 F.Supp. at 1077, and of a character similar to that of the acts alleged in the fraud counts, in that all counts involve substantial alleged dishonesty. ......
1 cases
  • US v. Broccolo, No. 91 Cr. 902 (SWK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 9, 1992
    ...by defendant to cover any improprieties 797 F. Supp. 1191 that the scheme to defraud Staples might involve, see United States v. Ruiz, 702 F.Supp. at 1077, and of a character similar to that of the acts alleged in the fraud counts, in that all counts involve substantial alleged dishonesty. ......

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