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Property Owner Dry Docked

 State: NY


Court Sorts Out Liability for Worker's Fall on Dry Docked Ship


A New York appellate court ruled that a property owner could be liable to a maritime worker for violations of the state Labor Laws.


Case: Durando v. City of New York, No. 2012-00535, 04/03/2013, published.


Facts: Daniel Durando worked as a scaffolding installer for the Champion Construction Corp. on the SS Chemical Pioneer, a ship in dry dock for repairs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


He claimed that he fell through an improperly covered opening in the floor, or deck, of one of the ship's cargo holds and suffered injuries.


Durando sued the City of New York, which owned the land on which the dry dock was situated; the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., a not-for-profit entity which leased the Navy yard from the city; the ship repair contractor, the GMD Shipyard Corp.; and the GMD Enterprises Corp., which leased the dry dock from the BNYDC and subleased it to GMD Shipyard.


The defendants then sued Champion, seeking contribution and indemnification.


Procedural History: Kings County Supreme Court Judge Francois A. Rivera dismissed all of Durando's claims against the city except for his claims based on violations of Labor Law Sections 240(1) and 241(6).


He granted summary judgment in favor of Durando as to the city's liability for violating Section 240 (1), and dismissed the defendants' claims for indemnification and contribution except as to GMD Shipyard's claim for contractual indemnification.


Analysis: The Appellate Division's 2nd Department said there was no question this case falls within federal maritime jurisdiction, but general maritime law did not preempt Durando's Labor Law claims.


"Under the circumstances of this case, the application of Labor Law Sections 240(1) and 241(6), which are local regulations enacted to protect the health and safety of workers in this state, will not unduly interfere with a fundamental characteristic of maritime law or the free flow of maritime commerce," the court said.


The court also said Durando was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his Section 240(1) claim against the city since he showed there was no safety device to prevent him from falling through the hole in the deck.


The court went on to rule that Durando's claim against GMD Shipyard was barred by the Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act because GMD Shipyard had provided insurance coverage for the payment of LHWCA benefits for Durando and that the city's claim for indemnification against Champion was barred by New York's Workers' Compensation Law.


GMD Shipyard was, however, entitled to contractual indemnification from Champion because the terms of its lease with Champion obligated Champion to indemnify it regardless of its own negligence.


Lastly, the court said GMD Enterprises was the functional equivalent of an out-of-possession landlord, and since it did not have the right to control the work of GMD Shipyard, the ship repair contractor, or Champion, GMD Enterprises was entitled to summary judgment in its favor.


To read the decision,click here.


Source: WorkCompCentral

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