Condominium or co-op? This distinction, familiar to purchasers of New York City real estate, was recently the basis for a notable decision in New York Labor Law jurisprudence.
This week the New York Court of Appeals clarified the meaning of the term “owner” in Labor Law § 241(6). In Guryev v. Tomchinsky, it held that an injured worker could not recover against a condominium, its board of managers, or its managing agent because those entities were neither the “owners” nor the “agents of owners” of the apartment in which the injury occurred.
Critical to its holding was the precise nature of the property interests at issue:
[T]here was no lessor-lessee relationship between the condominium and the [apartment owners]. Rather, the [apartment owners] owned their apartment or “unit” in fee simple absolute[.] … In short, the … apartment is real property separate and apart from the land beneath the condominium building, and plaintiff’s accident occurred while he was working in their apartment. … And since the [apartment owners], not the condominium, own [said] apartment, the [condominium defendants] are not the owner’s agents within the meaning of the Labor Law.
Thus, the Court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims against those entities.