First Department Upholds Summary Judgment for Plaintiff with Significant Discovery Outstanding

As we have previously reported, in civil actions in New York, especially actions involving Labor Law § 240(1), discovery needs to be completed to establish a prima facie case for summary judgment.  That progress can be a long and drawn-out affair, unless the Courts determine discovery isn’t necessary for plaintiff to establish prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. 

In Darren v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 2024 NY Slip Op 02368 (1st Dep’t 2024), plaintiff alleged that while employed at the subject jobsite, he fell into a hole measuring approximately 2 ½ feet deep, 18 inches wide, and 3 feet long.  The hole was covered by a thin piece of black plastic waterproofing material.  Plaintiff alleged that the failure of the owner/general contractor to provide sufficient safety devices to prevent plaintiff from falling in the hole constituted a violation of Labor Law § 240(1).  

Plaintiff moved for summary judgment after the conclusion of plaintiff’s and the defendant owner’s depositions.  Notably, as alleged in the defendant owner’s opposition to plaintiff’s motion, significant discovery remained outstanding, including the depositions of an additional main defendant engineering firm, two subcontractors who are named as third parties, and numerous non-party witnesses. 

The Supreme Court, New York County granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, and the First Department unanimously affirmed, holding that plaintiff established prima facie that the defendant violated § 240(1).  In opposition, the defendant argued that (1) the height differential was de minimis and (2) plaintiff’s motion was premature in consideration of the discovery still outstanding at the time the motion for summary judgment was made.  The First Department disagreed, citing long-standing preceded that there is no di minimis test for height differentials contemplated under § 240(1). 

Additionally, the First Department rejected Defendant’s argument that plaintiff’s motion was premature, finding that the defendant failed to demonstrate that essential facts in opposition to the motion were within plaintiff’s knowledge and control and that the information sought by defendant pertained to third-party discovery.  Further, according to the First Department, there was no indication that the additional discovery sought might lead to relevant evidence. 

The Haskins decision can be found here.

For additional information, contact Philip D. Priore, Esq. and/or Michael J. Shields, Esq.

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