Associate Lauren Creegan wins Summary Judgment

This Rensselaer County venued personal injury action stems from a stair collapse incident that occurred at the residential home of co-defendant, David DePaulo. We represented Bella Home Builders, Mr. DePaulo’s construction company. Plaintiff was at the subject premises at the request of defendant DePaulo to repair a leak in his condensation pump in the air conditioner unit in the basement. As he stepped onto the staircase, the entire staircase collapsed.  The plaintiff suffered a compound fracture of the ankle with multiple surgeries.  The staircase had been installed several years earlier during the construction of the home.  Defendant Bella was the general contractor for the construction of the home.  DePaulo was the titled owner and was having the home built as his personal residence.  DePaulo testified that he personally performed many tasks during construction himself in his individual capacity in order to save money by not going through Bella.  One of those tasks was the installation of the subject staircase.

Plaintiff named Mr. DePaulo individually and Bella as defendants. He claimed that DePaulo and Bella were negligent in the installation and maintenance  of the stairs and for failing to properly inspect the subject stairs.  Plaintiff also claimed that DePaulo was wearing both his homeowner’s hat and his Bella hat at the time of the installation of the stairs and therefore, Bella is liable for DePaulo’s actions under respondeat superior.  We moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery arguing that Bella cannot be held liable given the sworn, uncontradicted testimony of defendant DePaulo that he installed the subject staircase on his own, in his capacity as the homeowner of the subject premises. Judge Patrick McGrath issued a decision on August 18, 2020 granting our Summary Judgment Motion agreeing that Bella did not have any involvement in the installation or maintenance of the stairs, that Bella could not be held responsible for the independent acts of its principal performed in his capacity as the homeowner and that Bella did not have actual or constructive notice of any defect in the staircase.