Friday, May 11, 2007

Affirmed by the Court of Appeals

Pavlou v. City of New York, 2007 NY Slip Op 03796 (May 3, 2007)

This was a Labor Law Section 241(6) case in which the plaintiff alleged that a violation of an Industrial Code provision prohibiting the overloading of cranes was a proximate cause of a crane collapse. The testimony at trial was that the crane had a pre-existing crack which made it unsafe to operate with any load. The jury found that the crane was overloaded, and that the overloading was negligent, but that the overloading was not a proximate cause of the accident.

After the jurors learned of the effect of their verdict, and expressed considerable remorse, the trial court set aside the verdict on the issue of proximate cause and ordered a new trial on that sole issue, leaving intact the ostensible damages award of more than $12 million. The Appellate Division (3-2) reversed, and reinstated the verdict.

The Court of Appeals initially dismissed plaintiff's appeal as of right, holding that the two-justice dissent in the Appellate Division was not on a question of law. Undeterred, the plaintiffs applied for leave to appeal, which was granted by the Appellate Division.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals, following review under Rule 500.11, held that the jury's finding was supported by the evidence, and that the issues of negligence and proximate cause were not so inextricably intertwined as to make the verdict inconsistent. The Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the Appellate Division order reinstating the jury verdict, commenting that plaintiff's other arguments were beyond its power to review.