Appeals Court Clears Subcontractors in Fatal Parking Garage Accident

Categories: Courts

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1991 Marcus Avenue, Long Island.
On a February morning in 2008, Julie and Charles Simon drove to work together. A contractor had hired them to put up wallpaper in a recently constructed office building on Marcus Avenue on Long Island. It was their second day on the job and there were many fences around the site. They weren't sure how to get to the front entrance and the car made its way into an underground parking garage next to the office building.

They did not know the garage was still under construction.

Seconds after driving onto the garage's top deck, Julie realized the car was not stopping when she hit the breaks. The ground was covered in ice. The car slid toward the edge of the deck and into the steel cable guard rails. Charles, in the passenger's seat, jumped out. The cables snapped and the car fell 32 feet to the lower level. Julie died at the scene.

Charles Simon filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the building owner (Granite Building), the property manager (Lalezarian Properties), the lead contractor (Kulka Construction), and the subcontractors who built and installed the steel cables. Simon charged them with negligence and claimed that they violated labor laws.

Deflecting liability, the building owner, the property manager, and the lead contractor filed a motion seeking to hold the subcontractors responsible.

Last month, though, a Brooklyn appeals court cleared the subcontractors, shifting the lawsuit's focus onto the management companies. The Appellate Division's Second Department ruled that the subcontractors "did not create the dangerous condition that caused the accident" and "did not have authority to supervise or control the area of the work site."

Although the parking garage was in an area closed to the public, the Simons drove "through an opening in a fence onto the upper deck of a parking garage," according to the court.

There had been heavy snowfall the night before and rain that morning. The garage pavement was coated with more than an inch of ice. A carpenter working the site that day told Newsday at the time that crossing it was like "wearing a pair of sneakers and running across an ice skating rink."

Next: the text of the court's decision.


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