Plaintiff’s Comparative Negligence Does Not Trigger an Employer’s Contractual Indemnification Obligation (NY)

 In a bid to trigger an employer’s contractual indemnity provision, some defendants are arguing that the plaintiff’s comparative negligence constitutes the employer’s negligence. While creative, this argument, as discussed by the Second Department in Arrendal v. Trizechahan, is flawed and does not comport with the intent of indemnity provisions.

 In Arrendal, the plaintiff, a Daisy Subway employee, was injured while placing garbage into a trash compactor. He commenced suit against Trizechahan, the owner of the building, who in turn filed a third party claim against Subway Real Estate Group for contractual indemnification. Subway Real Estate Group then sued Daisy Subway, the plaintiff’s employer.

 The indemnity provision in the lease provided that Subway Real Estate Group would indemnify Trizechahn from losses caused by an agent or licensee of Subway Real Estate, which plaintiff was. It also provided that Subway Real Estate would indemnify Trizechahn from losses caused by employees of Daisy Subway, which plaintiff was.

 Trizechahn argued that plaintiff’s comparative negligence constituted negligence and, thus, triggered Subway’s indemnity obligations. The Supreme Court bought this argument, but the Second Department did not. It held that the term “negligence,” as employed by the lease does not encompass the comparative negligence of the injured plaintiff. Rather, the indemnification provision would only be triggered in the event of a finding of negligence by the indemnitor’s agent or employee for a tort committed against the plaintiff.

 Thanks to Gabriel Darwick for his contribution.

 For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.