Summary Judgment Properly Denied to Defendant in Trip-and-Fall Case Under the “Nondelegable Duty Exception” to Non-Liability for Independent Contractor’s Acts

In Blatt v. L’Pogee, Inc., the Appellate Division, Second Department, recently held that the trial court properly denied summary judgment to defendant in this trip-and-fall case.

Plaintiff, a salesperson employed by defendants as an independent contractor, claimed that he tripped and fell on a hazardous condition created by another independent contractor salesperson employed by defendants.

The court explained the circumstances under which one is liable for an independent contractor’s negligent acts:

As a general rule, a party who engages an independent contractor is not liable for the independent contractor’s negligent acts. One of the exceptions to this general rule is the nondelegable duty exception, which is applicable where the party is under a duty to keep premises safe. Whenever the general public is invited into stores, office buildings, and other places of public assembly, the owner of such premises is charged with the duty to provide members of the general public with a reasonably safe premises, including a safe means of ingress and egress.

In this case, defendants failed to establish their entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, since the evidence submitted in support of their motion failed to “demonstrate, prima facie, that the incident did not occur in a public area or that the plaintiff was not a person protected under the nondelegable duty exception.”

Since defendants failed to meet their initial burden, the court denied their motion without considering the sufficiency of plaintiff’s opposition papers.