Lopane v. Town of Kent

Supreme Court Putnam County

Cases | Premises Liability

Plaintiff was severely injured when a deck collapsed at a Town-owned park. The Town invoked an “employer-employee” defense because plaintiff had previously served as a volunteer coach to the girl’s youth baseball league sponsored by the Town. This defense stripped the Supreme Court of its subject matter jurisdiction because the NY Worker’s Compensation Law has exclusive jurisdiction over the determination of “employer-employee” relationships pursuant to statute.

Plaintiff was first relegated to a several day evidentiary hearing before the Worker’s Compensation Board in which the Hearing Officer found no “employer-employee” relationship under the statute. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court action had to be stayed for a nearly two-year period because the Town also exercised its right to an appeal to the Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board. After the Appeal Board affirmed the findings of the Hearing Officer the Supreme Court, on motion by the Town, dismissed the case based on “lack of notice”.

While the Plaintiff’s appeal to the Supreme Court – Appellate Division was pending, upon motion for re-argument the lower Court reinstated the action. On the eve of trial the Town ultimately settled for several hundred thousand dollars.