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Some recent public authorities court decisions

January 24, 2012

Contracts

  • A company that installed closed circuit television cameras and message signs along the Thruway wasn’t entitled to additional compensation for “extra work exceeding the contract’s requirements,” the Third Department ruled, because it failed to notify the engineer-in-charge about the additional work or submit the proper account reports, as required by the contract. [Phoenix Signal & Elec. Corp. v. New York State Thruway Auth., 2011 NY Slip Op 9245 (3d Dept. Dec. 22, 2011)]

Due process & equal protection

  • A federal district court dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the Gunhill Road section of Bronx County is being denied “equal access” to public transportation. As the court explained, the plaintiff’s subtantive due process claim failed because he didn’t allege any protected liberty or property interest and his equal protection claim failed because he didn’t adequately allege that the MTA treated him differently than similarly situated persons. The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. §1981 and 49 U.S.C. §5303, the Urban Mass Transportation Act. [Sawyer v. N.Y. State Dept. of Transp., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3353 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2012)]
  • A federal district court dismissed equal protection and due process claims brought by employees of the City of Buffalo against the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, which allegedly violated their contracts when it imposed a wage freeze. The court found that the authority’s actions were reasonably intended to address the city’s fiscal crisis and rejected the employees’ claim that the wage freeze was retaliatory. [AFSCME, Local 264 v. Tobe, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145728 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2011)]

Freedom of Information Law

  • A plaintiff who alleged that he was fired from his position with the Thruway Authority in retaliation for complaining about a patronage hire was not entitled to an affirmation that the documents he received from a FOIL request were complete. As the court explained, the plaintiff’s “speculation that additional e-mails exist is insufficient to overcome counsel’s declaration that a search for responsive documents has been conducted” and disclosed. [Rusk v. New York State Thruway Auth., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149156 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 29, 2011]
Torts
  • The New York City Transit Authority failed to establish that it was entitled to qualified immunity in a negligence suit, and the determination as to liability was a jury issue and couldn’t be resolved solely on the evidence that it complied with its own internal safety rules. [Tzilianos v New York City Tr. Auth., 2012 NY Slip Op 00026 (1st Dept. Jan. 5, 2012)]
  • A wrongful death lawsuit involving an 87 year old decedent who fell backwards from the second step of an MTA Able-Ride bus was properly dismissed, the Second Department held, because the MTA “demonstrated that it did not owe an additional duty to the decedent, as its driver did not know, nor should he have reasonably known, of any disability that required him to render reasonable, additional assistance to her in boarding the bus.” The MTA’s policy of assisting only those bus passengers who requested assistance, moreover, was a generally accepted industry standard. [Kasper v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth. Long Is. Bus, 2011 NY Slip Op 9599 (2d Dept. Dec. 27, 2011)]
  • The Second Department also dismissed a personal injury suit brought by a U.S. Airways employee who fell on an icy ramp while working on premises leased to U.S. Airways by the Port Authority.  The court held that out-of-possession landlords, such as the Port Authority in this case, are only liable for injuries when a duty has been imposed by statute or contract. Because the plaintiff failed to allege any such duty, the complaint was dismissed. [Seawright v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 2011 NY Slip Op 9617 (2d Dept. Dec. 27, 2011]

Trial procedure

  • Maize v. Nassau Health Care Corporation involved the admissibility of prior criminal convictions in a civil suit alleging that the corporation violated the plaintiff’s civil rights by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The court ruled that the plaintiff’s 2010 burglary conviction was admissible because theft crimes rank “high on the scale of probative worth on creditability,” but excluded the plaintiff’s prior rape convictions because their impeachment value was outweighed by their potential for unfair prejudice. Several other convictions were excluded because they were more than 10 years old. [Maize v. Nassau Health Care Corp., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151750 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2012)]
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