Significant Cases

Paul Piantino and Aviation Practice Team Earn Victory at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport

Paul Piantino and the Aviation Practice Team secured a big win on summary judgment in New York Supreme Court in Erie County this past November. The case centers around the “duty to warn” and liability…

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Paul Piantino and the Aviation Practice Team secured a big win on summary judgment in New York Supreme Court in Erie County this past November. The case centers around the “duty to warn” and liability with respect to snow removal, a topic FMG has a great deal of expertise in.

Plaintiff was an employee of a private aircraft charter which leased certain sectors from Defendant Airport as part of its business activities. During a snowstorm at the Airport, Plaintiff was allegedly severely injured when she slipped and fell on ice. Plaintiff alleged that she was assisting in the removal of an airplane that had gone off the runway due to snowy and icy conditions.  The aircraft left the runway on to a grassy area and had to be towed out. Plaintiff herself was assisting in towing the aircraft out at the time of her injury.

Plaintiff maintained that Defendant acted negligently in creating and allowing a dangerous condition and failing to display proper warning notices so that the pilot would be aware of the end of the runway in snowy conditions. In addition, Plaintiff brought a New York Labor law claim arguing Defendant had a general obligation to protect the health and safety of all employees operating in the area of the Airport. FMG represented the Airport Authority who operated the Airport.

Defendant was able to demonstrate that it was not required to erect a warning sign and the lack thereof was not a significant factor in causing the injuries that resulted to Plaintiff. Additionally, Defendant relied on the “snow in progress” doctrine. Specifically, while a storm was in progress, Defendant had no obligation to plow, sand  or otherwise clean the area. Defendant did, however, choose to plow the area to make it possible for the grounded plane to be removed. As such, Defendant Airport had a duty to “not exacerbate or create a dangerous condition.” (Wheeler, 31 A.D.3d at 993) In the Court’s view, Defendant did not- they simply plowed the area to assist in the plane’s removal.

Additionally, it was ascertained that Defendant  had neither actual nor constructive notice of the alleged icy conditions as this condition was allegedly present for less than one hour prior to the incident, and further, no complaints were received during that time. Lastly, it was determined that Plaintiff’s labor law claim was meritless because Plaintiff was not considered an employee of Defendant, and as such, Defendant did not have a duty to warn Plaintiff of “potentially dangerous machinery, equipment, and devices” (N.Y. Lab Law §200(2) (McKinney))

This is a notable case under New York law that touches on several vital and recurrent themes in tort law, especially as we head into the winter season. This case provides guidance when defending snow removal and “duty to warn” cases for FMG’s Tort and Catastrophic Loss Practice Section.

If you would like a copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion, please contact Paul Piantino at [email protected] or any attorney at the Newark office.

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