Procuring Insurance Is Not Equal To Indemnification

In the matter of Verduzco-Soto v. Georgia Properties Inc., a scaffold worker fell while descending from a scaffold, suffering personal injuries while working on the exterior of 275 Central Park West. He was working for Viles Contracting Corp, the contractor hired by Georgia Properties, the building owner.

Viles obtained insurance covering Georgia Properties pursuant to the “Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor”, which does not include a clause requiring Viles to indemnify Georgia Properties.

Meanwhile, there was a subsequent “Hold Harmless” agreement, which contains an Indemnification clause between Viles as “Contractor” and RCR Management LLC and Affiliates as “Owner/Landlord.” Ari Paul, the RCR Management LLC managing agent, testified that: RCR was the property manager for the Building on the date of the alleged accident; neither he nor RCR had any relation to Georgia Properties; he did not report to Georgia Properties regarding the construction at issue; and he did not report to Georgia Properties in his capacity as managing agent of the Building.

Georgia Properties was cross-moving for summary judgment on the grounds that it is—or was intended to be—covered by the “Hold Harmless” Agreement between Viles Contracting Corp. and RCR Management LLC and its Affiliates, and lists this latter entity as the “Owner/Landlord.”

The Court concluded there was no evidence that Georgia Properties was an RCR Management LLC affiliate. Further, the President of RCR Management LLC testified that there was no relationship between Georgia Properties and RCR Management LLC, and that he had no responsibility to report to Georgia Properties regarding the construction being done by Viles or his management of the Building.

The Court was unmoved by Georgia Properties’ argument that Vile’s procurement of insurance coverage equates to an intention to indemnify, since an agreement to procure insurance is not an agreement to indemnify or hold harmless, and the distinction between the two is well recognized. So, Georgia Properties’ cross-motion was denied by the Court.

Ari Paul signs leases and renewals as “Owner” for 275 Central Park West and other properties held in trust for various beneficiaries (including Richard Eisenberg). RCR Management LLC and Georgia Properties (along with another 19 building corporations) list 155 Riverside Drive as their official address, according to the NY Department of State, Division of Corporations online database.

Perhaps the Court decision would have been different had any relationship between RCR Management LLC and Georgia Properties been elucidated.


Google Legal Opinions Research of Court Case Decisions

As an option of the Google Scholar tool (a search portal for scholarly literature), there is now a separate search function option which taps into an indexed collection of millions of freely available legal decisions provided by Google and other Web sites.

It is interesting to view cases related to properties held by the Chiel Rosenblatt Family Trust (and managed in most cases by Ari Paul of RCR Management LLC) “DBAs (Doing Business As)” LLCs. For example, here are the results pages for searching on “Georgia Properties”, “Riverside Syndicate”, and  “Mayflower Development”. Of special interest are the cases involving a real estate broker “Rita Citrin” who has rented many of their apartments and whose creative legal malpractice lawsuit is described on the NY Attorney Malpractice blog as she instantly morphed from defendant in one case to plaintiff vs. her former counsel immediately after a stipulation in the first case. There are cases of a few attorneys they employ such as “Horing Welikson”, “Fleishell”, and “Kucker & Bruh” . Using quotes around the words narrows down the search results relevancy. Trying variations of the DBA names such as dropping the LLC is worth experimenting with as well. Don’t forget to click on the legal opinions radio button first, as seen in the picture at the end of this post.

The tool is intended to make critical legal opinions more accessible and understandable for ordinary people curious about the decisions that shape and clarify the law of the land. From the Google Scholar home page, users can enter the name of a case, its number or a key phrase, like “primary residence holdover” or “luxury deregulation”, dhcr, +dhcr +mci, +dhcr +mbr (both without quotes) and retrieve a list of results that include the full text of the decision from all available sources.

While Google offers links out to other sites like Justia or LII, it also provides its own copies of decisions. Within those decisions, Google’s tools find any mention of other cases and statutes and provides hyperlinks that take users directly to cited decisions. Advanced search options also allow users to return only results from federal courts or from any selected state courts. Users can also opt to return decisions written within a particular date range.

Each result lists how many times that particular case has been cited in other decisions. By clicking on the “How Cited” button next to the case title, users can view a list of excerpts from other decisions where that case is cited, as well as links to those and similar opinions, as determined by Google search algorithms that connect cases based on topic and related citations. The tool also taps into a collection of legal journals available through Google Scholar. Depending on access restrictions, users can either view a passage or full article.

For legal professionals, it also provides a new option for finding legal documents when case titles or citations aren’t readily available and drawing connections between cases and how they are employed in subsequent opinions. How often cases are updated varies from court to court, as Google Scholar is still in beta, but Google is collecting feedback from users to fine-tune the functionality and explore new features to improve the service, which might eventually displace some of the high-end paid providers like Lexis and Westlaw.