But Only God Can Make a Tree (Joyce Kilmer, 1914)

This was originally posted in the SGR Blog.

Ironically, despite their divine origin, disputes between neighbors over trees often arise and, as a recent case illustrates, become the subject of hard fought litigation.

Shafi Ahmed and Nusrat Ahmed filed a Small Claims proceeding against their Middletown, New York neighbor,. Allen H. Zoghby . Both Parties appeared without attorneys.

The Ahmeds alleged that roots from a tree, purportedly on the property next door  owned by  Zoghby (73 Beattie Avenue), damaged the pavement and driveway located at the front of the house on their property (75 Beattie Avenue).  The Ahmeds also alleged that the tree’s roots were slowly moving under the foundation of their house and that branches from the tree on Zoghby’s property had to be cut and trimmed by them at their cost. The Ahmeds initially sued Zoghby for $3,800.00.

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MOTORCYCLE-INVOLVED ACCIDENTS RAISE COMPLICATED ISSUES AS TO LIABILITY, CAUSATION AND ALLOCATION OF FAULT

I cannot recall why and when I first started collecting the articles about motorcycle accidents; however, over time, I realized that lawsuits arising from such claims are very common (in retrospect, for obvious reasons, the inherent danger and risk of riding a motorcycle).  The causes raise a broad panoply of issues including proximate cause, helmet design and manufacture; and road and intersection signage and speed limits.  A few recent examples follow:

Caro v. Chesnick, 2017 NY Slip Op 07940 (1st Dept., November 14, 2017)

Supreme Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

The First Department briefly described the facts:

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“Baseball is a game of inches.” Branch Rickey

This was originally published on the SGR blog.

And often so is construction. A recent case illustrates the point:

A Romanian Orthodox Christian Church in Elmhurst, Queens is adjacent to a construction site. Defendants were building a substantial residential apartment building next door. For construction to proceed, a retaining wall was built very close to the Church property line. The Church hired a professional surveyor who found that the steel piles encroached on the north end of the Church’s western property line by 2.5 inches and at the south end of its western property line by 3.25 inches. The survey also showed that the wood lagging encroached on the Church’s property at the north end of its western property line by 3.25 inches and at the south end of its western property line by 3.75 inches.

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Enforcement Delayed is Enforcement Denied

This was originally published on the SGR blog.

Some residential buildings are “pet friendly”—and some are not.  But even where a lease in New York City prohibits household pets, the Administrative Code creates a “safe harbor” for animals when the landlord  fails to start a summary (eviction) proceeding for breach of the lease within three months of learning of the violation.

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SHOUT “FORE” BEFORE TAKING THAT “MULLIGAN”

Golf, like any other recreational activity, runs the risk of accidents on the course – and the resulting injuries often lead to “finger pointing” as to which golfer was at fault.  And the game also often raises predictable and unpredictable collateral disputes such as whether a golf club membership is property that can be seized by a judgment creditor; and claims for trespass and nuisance damages when golf balls land on an adjacent property.  Several recent examples follow:

MacIsaac v. Nassau County, 2017 NY Slip Op 05814, 2d Dept. July 26, 2017 Continue reading

New York Court of Appeals Alert (March 2019)

This first appeared on the SGR Blog.

The mid-2019/2020 Term of the Court of Appeals did not result in any “blockbuster” civil law decisions. The Court, however, did release two opinions that demonstrate how the panel addresses the application of precedents, on the one hand, and substantive conflicts in the Appellate Divisions, on the other.

In the first case, over a stinging dissent, the Court adhered to a 1999 decision  holding that a “stairway” may constitute a “sidewalk”  for tort liability purposes.  And in the second, the Court resolved a split in the Departments over whether the filing of  suit by a New York attorney who did not (as required by law)   maintain an office in the state,  was a curable violation.

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Behold the “Litigation Hold”

Originally published on the SGR blog.

You are an officer, director/manager or agent for a corporation, limited liability company or residential cooperative/condominium. You occasionally receive garden-variety  claims for  personal injuries (e.g. slip-and-falls).  And from time-to-time more threatening claims (e.g. discrimination, breach of fiduciary duty).

First thing first: immediately notify your liability insurance carrier in writing.  And second: preserve all hard copy and electronic documents and communications (including all audio and visual records) directly or indirectly relating to the claim.

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Court-Imposed Access for “Underpinning” Next Door

Originally published on the SGR Blog.

CUCS Housing Development Fund Corporation  and several related entities sued under RPAPL § 881  for Court-imposed  access, for the  purpose of underpinning  a neighboring property on West 12th Street owned by  Clifford S. Aymes.  Underpinning is  the extension of the foundation of one property to below the foundation of a neighboring parcel.

CUCS was trying to begin a construction project to provide New York City’s homeless population with affordable housing. Aymes owned the one-story, unoccupied building adjoining  the project.

The New York City Building Code  required CUCS take careful measures to protect public safety and to prevent damages to Aymes’ property during the building’s construction.

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And on the Third Day…

Originally published on the SGR Blog

Dry land has been around—well, according to the Bible,  since the third  day of  the Creation.  So it is not surprising that disputes relating to ownership of real property often have their “Genesis”  in facts, circumstances and documents with ancient pedigree.  A recent case, in which the Town of Southampton and the Freeholder Trustees sued for a judgment declaring them to be the sole owners of  real estate on the shore of Moriches Bay, Suffolk County, reached and searched back to a decree promulgated in 1686 and a statute enacted  in 1818.

The case arose out of  a dispute over whether the movement of sand caused by storms affected the ownership of certain property. Suit was filed against the Incorporated Village of West Hampton Dunes and owners of property located on the north side of Dune Road, just south of Moriches Bay.

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ISSUES IN ESTABLISHING AN EASEMENT OVER REAL PROPERTY

Law school real property textbooks abound with cases addressing adverse possession, right-of-way disputes and various types of easements (prescriptive, of necessity, and otherwise).  Contemporary decisions still address those usual generic, threshold issues, but also the more granule issues of the location, size and permitted uses of easements, rights of way.  Several recent examples follow.

DiDonato v. Dyckman, 2018 NY Slip Op 08113, App. Div. 2nd Dept. (November 28, 2018) Continue reading