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January 2013

Gordon & Rees New York/New Jersey Team Wins Dismissal for Structural Engineering Firm and Its Primary Partner

On Dec. 31, 2012, a Gordon & Rees team of New York and New Jersey attorneys obtained a dismissal of all claims and cross-claims asserted against their clients, a structural engineering company and the company’s principal owner, in a multimillion-dollar architectural negligence action. Partner Robert Modica led the team that included associates Sarir Z. Silver and Lauren Conston.

In the action, the plaintiff, a condominium association, sought to hold the developer and various architects, contractors, and subcontractors responsible for negligently designing and developing their nine-story condominium building. Gordon & Rees’s clients were engaged by the developer to design a retrofit for the building during the building’s development when structural deficiencies became apparent. The plaintiff originally alleged that the clients negligently designed the retrofit, and most of the 19 co-defendants alleged cross-claims for contribution and indemnification.    

During discovery, the plaintiff and all but three co-defendants voluntarily dismissed the clients from the action at the request of Gordon & Rees. However, the original structural engineer for the building, as well as two subcontractors, continued to maintain their cross-claims for contribution and indemnification. As a result, the Gordon & Rees team filed a post-discovery motion for summary judgment to dismiss the co-defendants’ cross-claims.
In the motion, the clients alleged that various procedural bars prevented the original structural engineer from maintaining his cross-claims against them. Additionally, the clients argued that none of the co-defendants could maintain their cross-claims because there was no factual evidence or expert opinion to support the claim that the clients were negligent. The clients also alleged that none of the co-defendants could establish that they had the necessary relationship with the clients to prove a cause of action for indemnification under New Jersey law. Thus, the clients alleged they could not be liable for contribution and indemnification with regard to their work at the building.

The court granted the motion and issued an order dismissing all cross-claims with prejudice, as asserted against the clients. In the order the court noted that it was dismissing all claims for the reasons stated in the clients’ motion.   

Lauren Conston Wilke