Summary Judgment filed by Stutman Law leads to a $1.1 million recovery in a New York building collapse case


In 2007, a one story commercial building collapsed into an active construction site. The collapse occurred as contractors were performing excavation and underpinning work on a construction site that was adjacent to the collapsed building. The New York City Building Department subsequently determined that the collapsed building was unsafe and ordered that it be razed.

After the collapse, Stutman Law’s attorneys filed suit against numerous entities involved in the construction, including the adjacent property owner and contractors who were working at the construction site on the day of the collapse. Unfortunately, the contractors who were performing the excavation and underpinning work were uninsured and incapable of satisfying any judgments. Nevertheless, the adjacent property owner, a successful real estate developer, was adequately insured but denied all liability for the collapse.

During the course of litigation, Stutman Law’s attorneys proved that the adjacent property owner had been cited for violations of the New York City Administration Code after the collapse but had failed to contest those violations during an administrative hearing before the New York City Environmental Control Board. Moreover, they established that the adjacent property owner had, in a related action, admitted that the on-site contractors had negligently caused the collapse. Based upon this information, Stutman Law’s attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability against the adjacent property owner. In support of this motion, Stutman Law’s attorneys first argued that the adjacent property owner had a non-delegable duty under New York law to provide lateral support to neighboring properties when excavating. Next, relying upon the principles of offensive collateral estoppel, they argued that the adjacent property owner could not contest liability because he had already admitted to negligence in a prior judicial hearing vis-a-vis his failure to contest the administrative code violations. Finally, they argued that the adjacent property owner had already admitted to negligence by pleading in a related action that the on-site contractors had negligently caused the collapse. In response, the court granted the motion and imposed judgment on behalf of Stutman Law’s client against the adjacent property owner! After judgment was entered against the adjacent property owner, the case settled for $1.1 million, or almost 100% of the carrier’s payout.

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