LAECCA v. [And a Third-Party Action].

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

Richard LAECCA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants-Respondents, Conan Construction, Defendant. [And a Third-Party Action].

Decided: May 20, 2004

MAZZARELLI, J.P., ANDRIAS, SAXE, WILLIAMS, FRIEDMAN, JJ. DiJoseph & Portegello, P.C., New York (Arnold E. DiJoseph, III of counsel), for appellants. Paganini, Herling, Cioci & Cusumano, Lake Success (Simon Herling of counsel), for NYU respondents. Law Offices of Bruce A. Lawrence, Brooklyn (Angela Venetsanos of counsel), for Thoroughbred Construction Company of Westchester, Inc., respondent.

Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Marilyn Shafer, J.), entered February 27, 2003, which, to the extent appealed from, granted defendants' motions for summary judgment dismissing the second amended complaint and all cross claims against them, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff deliveryman was injured when a door, leaning against a wall pending installation, fell on him.   The NYU defendants, owners of the premises, had hired defendant Thoroughbred for the work.   Thoroughbred subcontracted the installation to defendant Conan, which, in turn, subcontracted this job to third-party defendant Crana.   The latter two parties have defaulted.

 An owner is obligated to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition (see Tagle v. Jakob, 97 N.Y.2d 165, 168, 737 N.Y.S.2d 331, 763 N.E.2d 107).   However, a party who employs an independent contractor for a particular task on the premises is generally not liable for the negligent acts of that contractor (Rosenberg v. Equitable Life Assur. Socy. of U.S., 79 N.Y.2d 663, 668, 584 N.Y.S.2d 765, 595 N.E.2d 840), absent a showing of a specifically imposed duty or knowledge by the principal of an inherent danger (Chainani v. Board of Educ. of City of N.Y., 87 N.Y.2d 370, 381, 639 N.Y.S.2d 971, 663 N.E.2d 283).   Such knowledge can be imputed where the owner or principal created the hazardous condition or otherwise had actual or constructive notice of it (Juarez v. Wavecrest Mgt. Team, 88 N.Y.2d 628, 646, 649 N.Y.S.2d 115, 672 N.E.2d 135), or where he exercised supervisory control over the contractor's operation (see Lombardi v. Stout, 80 N.Y.2d 290, 295, 590 N.Y.S.2d 55, 604 N.E.2d 117).   The retention of general supervisory authority over the acts of an independent contractor is generally insufficient for the imposition of such vicarious liability (see Saini v. Tonju Assoc., 299 A.D.2d 244, 245, 750 N.Y.S.2d 55).

 The NYU and Thoroughbred defendants submitted evidence demonstrating that none of their employees supervised, assisted or otherwise participated in the installation of the door.   The failure to offer proof in opposition, sufficient to raise a triable question as to these defendants' liability, warranted summary judgment in their favor (see Gilbert Frank Corp. v. Federal Ins. Co., 70 N.Y.2d 966, 525 N.Y.S.2d 793, 520 N.E.2d 512).