Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Complaint in Its Entirety As to Airport Defendants in Action Involving Catering Rack that Allegedly Fell Onto Plaintiff

In a decision dated March 10, 2020, Justice Richard G. Latin of Queens County Supreme Court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety as to our clients, Delta Airlines, Inc. (“Delta”), SCIS Air Security Corporation (“SCIS”) and LSG Sky Chefs North America Solutions, Inc. (“Sky Chefs NAS”). The plaintiff commenced the instant action to recover for injuries she allegedly sustained as a result of an improperly stacked catering rack which caused a food carrier/container to fall and strike her arm while working for LSG Sky Chefs, Inc. (“Sky Chefs”) at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, Building 139. At the outset of the Court’s decision, it found that the defendants met their prima facie burden in establishing the factual basis for summary judgment. The Court recounted the detailed information and evidence that was submitted with the motion, including all of the affidavits of each of the defendants, the testimony cited from the plaintiff’s depositions as well as the relevant provisions of the Catering Agreement between Sky Chefs and Delta. Based on the affidavits that were submitted on behalf of Delta and Sky Chefs, the Court determined that the racks from which the Delta container allegedly fell onto the plaintiff were not Delta property, but rather, they were owned by the plaintiff’s employer, Sky Chefs. Additionally, the Court acknowledged that such racks were returned to the Sky Chefs’ kitchen after they were used to transport the carriers to the aircraft and were then utilized in the catering of other airlines’ aircraft from Building 139. Furthermore, the Court acknowledged that Sky Chefs had painted the yellow “safety lines” on the walls of the kitchen and enforced the guidelines that the items should not be stacked above this line.

The Court also noted that the plaintiff’s opposition rested solely on the theory of negligent bailment which it rejected. While the plaintiff had argued that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants should be held liable on the grounds that the equipment they provided to Sky Chefs was not safe for its intended use and was loaned from Delta to Sky Chefs, the Court noted that such characterization assumed that Delta owned the racks and loaned them to Sky Chefs in the first instance. However, the Court ruled that such a claim of negligent bailment was properly refuted by the defendants in their submission of the supporting affidavits that Sky Chefs and not Delta owned the racks.

Finally, the Court noted that the common law in the State of New York does not impose a duty on one party to control the conduct of a third person to prevent them from causing injury to others and that liability for such negligent acts of third persons generally arises when the defendant has authority to control the actions of said third persons. The Court ruled that here, however, the defendants demonstrated that they did not own or exercise control over the racks in question nor did they control the activities of the plaintiff or her employer, Sky Chefs. As such, absent such a special relationship which had not been established by the plaintiff, the defendants did not breach their duty of reasonable care to the plaintiff. The Court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against Sky Chefs NAS and SCIS on these grounds as well and as the plaintiff had focused her opposition to the motion solely on Delta. In light of the above, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety as a matter of law.

Betsy Silva Casas v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. et al., Index No. 708865/2016 (Queens Co. Sup. Ct., Mar. 10, 2020)

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