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Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc. v. Long Island R. Co.

Court of Appeals of New York

October 9, 1987, Argued ; November 17, 1987, Decided

No Number in Original

Opinion

 [*385]  [**191]  [***654]    OPINION OF THE COURT

This litigation arises out of a multimillion dollar track improvement of the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Railroad by the addition of a second railroad track between Amott and Huntington. Construction on the contract, which defendant, Long Island Rail Road Company (LIRR), awarded to plaintiff, Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc., as low bidder, began in September 1983. As alleged by plaintiff, the contract contained detailed engineering specifications that instructed plaintiff on how to proceed with construction. Plaintiff contends that, after construction began, it discovered that defendant was unprepared to proceed with the project -- specifically, that the engineering design was flawed, thus requiring substantial design changes during the course of construction; that defendant had failed to acquire the rights to certain necessary properties bordering the construction sites; and that defendant had failed to locate and move various utility lines throughout the project that interfered with construction. Notwithstanding these difficulties, plaintiff proceeded with construction, which was completed in [****9]  July 1986 -- almost one year after the scheduled completion date.

The various problems with project design and construction caused plaintiff, in November of 1984, to commence this action against the railroad and the railroad's parent, the Metropolitan  [*386]  Transportation Authority (MTA), 1 sounding in breach of contract, quasi contract, fraud, gross negligence and negligence. Alleging that defendant entered into the contract with full knowledge of the problems, but intentionally concealed them from plaintiff, plaintiff seeks to recover compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant moved to dismiss the causes of action sounding in negligence and quasi contract, and sought dismissal of the demand for punitive damages on the ground that, as a public benefit corporation, it was immune from such damages. Special Term granted the motion in its entirety. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed and granted leave to this court upon the certified question: Was the order properly made? We now affirm, answering the certified question in the affirmative.

 [****10]  I.

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70 N.Y.2d 382 *; 516 N.E.2d 190 **; 521 N.Y.S.2d 653 ***; 1987 N.Y. LEXIS 18964 ****

Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc., Appellant, v. Long Island Rail Road Company, Respondent, et al., Defendant

Prior History:  [****1]  Appeal, by permission of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department, from an order of that court, entered November 3, 1986, which unanimously affirmed an order of the Supreme Court at Special Term (Angelo D. Roncallo, J.), entered in Nassau County, granting a motion by defendant Long Island Rail Road Company to dismiss those causes of action of the amended complaint sounding in negligence and quasi contract and that portion of the amended complaint seeking punitive damages. The following question was certified by the Appellate Division: "Was the order of this court, dated November 3, 1986, properly made?"

 Clark-Fitzpatrick, Inc. v Long Is. R. R. Co., 124 AD2d 534.

Disposition: Order affirmed, etc.

CORE TERMS

punitive damages, quasi contract, Contracts, cause of action, transportation, commuter, railroad, sounding, damages

Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Claims By & Against, Torts, Punitive Damages, Availability, Governmental Entities, General Overview, Business & Corporate Law, Nonprofit Corporations & Organizations, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Quasi Contracts, Contracts Law, Restitution, Rescission & Redhibition, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, Employment Contracts, Breaches