New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CAMADINE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-015-129, Claim No. 110585, Motion No. M-71896


Synopsis


Partial summary judgment was granted where the undisputed facts established that during the course of dislodging a pallet jack, boxes fell to the floor below striking the claimant.

Case Information

UID:
2006-015-129
Claimant(s):
RONALD CAMADINE and ANTOINETTE CAMADINE
Claimant short name:
CAMADINE
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
110585
Motion number(s):
M-71896
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Goldblatt & Associates, P.C.By: Kenneth B. Goldblatt, Esquire
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Dennis Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 27, 2006
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimants’ motion for partial summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3212 on the issue of liability is granted. Claimant Ronald Camadine ( “claimant”) alleges that on November 3, 2004 he was injured when he was struck on the head by boxes that had fallen from a pallet jack at the top of a staircase at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York. The claim filed on March 3, 2005 asserts that the incident occurred in an interior stairwell leading from parking level 1 to parking level 2 in an area of the Empire State Plaza occupied by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The facts are undisputed that claimant was in the course of his employment as a delivery person when employees from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") attempted to move a pallet jack and, in doing so, caused several boxes to fall and strike the claimant. In support of their motion for summary judgment claimants submitted, among other exhibits, the examination before trial testimony of the claimant and two employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Claimant testified that as he had descended the stairwell to the floor below he heard two people at the top of the stairwell speaking in such a manner as to give him the impression they were having difficulty with the pallet jack. Upon reaching the bottom of the landing, Mr. Camadine took two or three steps and was hit on the head and propelled forward into his hand truck. He testified that he grabbed onto his hand truck, which stopped him from falling. After the incident, he saw several boxes on the floor around him. All of the boxes were the same size, and all bore the Dell computer logo.

Gary Graham was employed by the Department of Motor Vehicles at the time of the incident as the head mail and supply clerk. He testified that he became aware of the incident when he was supervising another employee in the process of moving boxes out of what he described as the property control area. The other employee was “frustrated” with a pallet jack because it had become stuck on a pallet. Mr. Graham approached the pallet jack to assist the employee and at that time became aware that some of the boxes had fallen from the pallet jack to the floor below. Although he did not recall whether he actually saw the boxes fall, he testified that he looked over the railing and saw the boxes and a delivery person on the floor below.

The deposition transcript of Elizabeth Gerighty, office manager for DMV, was also submitted by claimants in support of their motion. Ms. Gerighty testified that the claimant called her on the date of the incident to advise her of the accident, and the fact that he would be unable to complete a delivery that he was scheduled to make that day. Ms. Gerighty also completed an accident report which described the accident as follows: “while walking down stairs, someone dropped 3 boxes from overhead”(see, claimants' Exhibit “A”).

Defendant does not dispute claimant's contentions regarding the manner in which the incident occurred but contends that certain discrepancies in the claimants' version of the events require denial of the motion. Defendant points to the claimant’s medical records which, the defendant contends, grossly exaggerate the weight of the boxes and the distance they fell. For example, one such record indicates that the boxes weighed between 15 to 20 pounds when the actual weight of an empty box, according to defendant’s investigator, was only 7.5 ounces. Counsel for the defendant argues therefore that issues as to damages are “coextensive” with the issue of liability. The rules applicable to the determination of a motion for summary judgment were clearly stated by the Court of Appeals in Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324:
[T]he proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404). Failure to make such prima facie showing requires a denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra, at p 853). Once this showing has been made, however, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action (Zuckerman v City of New York, supra, at p 562).

Claimants established their prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. While summary judgment in negligence cases is rare, a claimant will generally be entitled to summary judgment where “‘there is no conflict at all in the evidence, the defendant’s conduct fell far below any permissible standard of due care, and the [claimant’s] conduct either was not really involved ...or was clearly of exemplary prudence in the circumstances.’” (Andre v Pomeroy, 35 NY2d 361, 365, quoting, 4 Weinstein-Korn-Miller, N.Y. Civ. Prac., par. 3212.03, op. cit.) Claimants established that during the course of dislodging a pallet jack in close proximity to the stairwell defendant’s employees caused several boxes to fall to the floor below, at least one of which struck the claimant on the head. These undisputed facts sufficiently establish that the defendant’s conduct fell far below the permissible standard of care and there is no proof suggesting that the claimant’s actions contributed to the occurrence (cf., Morejon v Rais Construction Co., 7 NY3d 203).

The defendant has failed to establish the existence of material issues of fact requiring a trial. The affidavit of Gary Graham submitted in opposition to the motion confirms that the boxes fell to the floor below during the course of moving the pallet jack. His affidavit indicates that the boxes were empty keyboard boxes. The affidavit from an investigator from the New York State Attorney General’s office indicates that the boxes weighed only 7.5 ounces. While these facts may have bearing on the nature or severity of any injuries, they have no bearing on the issue of liability (cf., Puricelli v Northstar Construction, Inc., 15 AD3d 856). Absent questions of fact as to the cause of the accident, or whether the conduct was negligent, summary judgment on the issue of liability is proper.

The claimants' motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability is granted. The trial currently scheduled to begin on January 25, 2007 is adjourned. A conference will be scheduled for the purpose of establishing a trial date on the issue of damages.

September 27, 2006
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated June 14, 2006;
  2. Affirmation of Kenneth B. Goldblatt dated June 14, 2006 with exhibits;
  3. Memorandum of Law of Dennis Acton dated July 6, 2006 with exhibits;
  4. Affirmation of Kenneth B. Goldblatt dated July 10, 2006.