Diaconis and Rodriguez Successfully Defend Summary Judgment Attack – Paving Way for Multi Million Dollar Recovery, Including Attorneys Fees for Prosecution of Action
Partners John Diaconis and Adam Rodriguez successfully defended a summary judgment decision they procured on behalf of Westchester County against Unity Mechanical Corp., in a defense and indemnity case brought in Westchester County Supreme Court.
The lawsuit arose out of injuries sustained by a Unity employee on May 30, 2013. The Unity employee was injured while performing work in the Westchester County Courthouse under a boiler repair contract with the County. The employee was standing on an A-frame ladder and fell to the floor, causing him to sustain significant injuries.
Unity agreed in the boiler repair contract with the County to defend and indemnify the County for “all” liability arising out of the performance under the Contract.
However, after the Unity employee sued the County in 2013, Unity refused to honor its contractual commitments to defend the County in the underlying action. So, the County defended itself. Years later, after a finding of “strict” liability against the County under the N.Y. Labor Law.
Unity ignored the County’s repeated offers to participate in settlement discussions, and the underlying action ultimately settled for $2.875 million. Unity then refused to indemnify the County for the settlement amount, so the County initiated a lawsuit.
The Court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment and held that Unity breached its duties to defend and indemnify the County. The Court also held that the County was entitled to attorneys’ fees for defending the underlying action, as well as the action-in-chief to recover the settlement proceeds.
Unity moved for reargument, arguing that the Court: (1) misapprehended the scope of Unity’s duty to defend and indemnify the County; (2) failed to address whether the County’s alleged negligence should preclude contractual indemnification to the County; and (3) failed to address the County’s alleged spoliation of evidence.
On December 31, 2020, in a thorough decision, the Court rejected Unity’s arguments and sustained its prior holdings, paving the way to a potential recovery of over $3 million for the County.