Firm News

SG Prevails on Summary Judgment Motion in Wrongful Death Claim

SG partner, Carolyn Loftus, prevailed on a summary judgment motion on behalf of a commercial client with the Supreme Court, Rockland County completely dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint in the case of Zerilli, as Executrix of the Estate of Alexander Lederer v. Pestech Exterminating Inc.

The plaintiff, who was the daughter of the decedent commenced the action against the defendant alleging negligence and loss of services arising out of an incident in which the decedent was seriously injured and died as a result of attempting to remove a hornet’s nest. The plaintiff alleged that the decedent and his grandson encountered a hornet’s nest and contacted Pestech inquiring about the removal of the nest. After advising that there would be a cost for removal of the nest, the decedent never retained the extermination company to perform the services. The plaintiff claimed that the Pestech employee negligently advised him to douse the nest with gas and to light it on fire. The decedent and his grandson then formulated a plan to light the nest on fire resulting in serious and fatal personal injuries. SG impleaded the grandson on behalf of the extermination company as a third-party defendant for contribution and indemnification.

In filing the motion, SG argued that the defendant owed no duty to the decedent as there was no contract for services, either oral or written to perform services and that all employees who handle incoming inquiries are licensed and certified in the proper guidelines for extermination services. Further, in support of the motion, various affidavits of all employees and former employees who were responsible for speaking with potential customers who affirmed that no such conversation ever occurred were submitted.

The Court agreed and held that without a duty running directly to the injured party there could be no liability in damages. Thus, without proof of a duty of care by the defendant owed to the plaintiff. plaintiff could not succeed on a cause of action sounding in negligence. The Court concluded that Pestech established that it did not owe a duty of care to either the decedent or Plaintiff and dismissed the complaint.

-Carolyn A. Loftus

Mon Jan 23 2023, 12:00am