First Department Modifies Lower Court’s Consolidation Order and Refuses to Permit Joint Trial of Damages Claims of Three Personal Injury Actions Arising from the Same Gas Explosion Accident

In a decision dated May 16, 2019, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously modified the Order of the Supreme Court, Bronx County (Hon. Laura G. Douglas) to the extent that it granted the plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate three personal-injury actions for a unified, joint trial on liability and damages. Our clients, the City of New York, New York City School Construction Authority, New York City Department of Administrative Services, Positive Electrical Associates, Inc. and the Board/Department of Education of the City of New York, consented to consolidation of the three actions for joint discovery and a joint trial of the three actions on the issue of liability but did not consent to a single, joint trial of all three actions on liability and damages. The actions relate to a gas explosion that occurred on August 20, 2015, during the construction of science laboratories at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx. The plaintiffs, who were employed by a plumbing and heating contractor, sustained personal injuries when there was a gas explosion while they were purging a gas line in a classroom laboratory. The plaintiffs assert causes of action for violations of Labor Law §§200 and 241(6) and for common-law negligence. The First Department held that, even though the three plaintiffs sustained similar types of injuries (i.e., burns), they each sustained different degrees of burns to different parts of the body. Therefore, a joint trial of the damage claims was not warranted because “individual issues would predominate” concerning the particular circumstances applicable to each plaintiff, including their individualized medical treatment and distinct medical history. The Court concluded that “[a]ny benefit gained by trying plaintiffs’ damages claims together would be outweighed by the potential prejudice to defendants.”

Charles Marullo v. The City of New York, et al., 172 A.D.3d 540, 101 N.Y.S.3d 47 (1st Dep’t 2019)

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