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Landlord Prevents Tenant from Entering Their Property, New York Appellate Court Modified Orginal Judgement


The plaintiff in this case is J. Leonard Spokek. The defendant is the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

The Case

A New York Injury Lawyer said that the plaintiff filed an action declaring that Liberty Mutual Insurance Company must defend and indemnify the plaintiffs from Cohen V. Spodek, Index Number 3456/87. The defendants from the initial case were Nevin Cohen and Kenneth Skrudna. Index Number 3456/87, was filed in the Civil Court of Kings County, and included Liberty Mutual (the defendant) appealing a judgment dated September 27th, 1988 from the Supreme Court of King’s County which granted that relief.


The judgment resulted in the modification of the original judgment. A paragraph in the original judgment stated that the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company must indemnify the plaintiffs for any damages that resulted from the action involved in Index Number 3456/87, the original case filed in the Civil Court of Kings County. The judgment requires the deletion of that paragraph. In its place, a provision was inserted stating that the underlying action must be resolved first. Only then can Liberty Mutual Insurance Company face a determination of any obligation to indemnify the plaintiffs.

 The Previous Case

The initial case, Cohen V. Spodek commenced in 1985. The defendants were Nevin Cohen and Kenneth Skurdna. The plaintiffs in this case included but were not limited to, Interboro Manaement Company, 1601 Beverly Realty Corp. and Leonard Spodek. The underlying action included a complaint which stated that Cohen and Skurdna were tenants in an apartment included in a property owned by Spodek. According to the complaint, payments were made by the tenants that should allow them to take possession of the apartment in question according to the terms of a rent-stabilized lease. They then took possession of that apartment.

A Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said that following this possession, the complaint alleges that Spodek took action to prevent the tenants from returning to the apartment. This included changing the locks on the doors to the property without obtaining the consent to do so from the tenants. The property belonging to the tenants that was in the apartment was appropriated by Spodek.

Spodek held general liability insurance with Liberty Mutual Company. The summons and complaint was forwarded by Spodek to Liberty Mutual. After receiving such, Liberty Mutual would not provide coverage or defend Spodek. Liberty Mutual would also not indemnify Spodek for any loss that would result as an effect of the action. A Westchester County Personal Injury Lawyer said the reasoning for this was that the losses suffered by the tenants were an intended result of the actions taken by Spodek. According to Liberty Mutual’s policies, injuries that are intended are not covered, so it declined coverage.

Results (cont.)

Agreement was found with the Supreme Court. Liberty Mutual is responsible for defending Spodek in the original action. Liberty Mutual is required to defend Spodek because of the “Special Multi-Peril Policy” included in the policy. The tenant’s complaint asserts the loss of access to the apartment and of personal properly. They also assert that false eviction took place, that a contract was breached and that the Administrative Code of the City of New York was violated. Punitive damages are being sought as a result. Some of these specific assertions are provided for in the “Special Multi-Peril Policy” which is why Liberty Mutual must defend Spodek.

Insurers are required to defend their insured clients even when suits are groundless. It has a broad duty that requires defense of the insured even if the claim is not clearly covered by the insurance. Sometimes this duty applies even if the claims are completely outside the initial protection offered by the insurance.

According to the pertinent policy, Liberty Mutual must defend Spodek if property damage happens as a result of an accident that was not initially intended from the point of view of the insured. This concept of property damage applies to the use of the designated property.

The underlying claim must be resolved before decisions can be made in regards to whether or not Liberty Mutual must indemnify Spodek. A special verdict should be sought by the Supreme Court to ascertain whether compensatory damages need to be awarded. Punitive damages need be indemnified by Liberty Mutual.

Legal options for every situation can be evaluated by the team of lawyers at Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We understand the wide variety of legal situations that arise, whether it be from a car accident, premises liabilty incident or medical malpractice, and endeavor to help our clients find favorable outcomes in any situation. Throughout the New York City greater metropolitan area you can find our offices, any of which will be happy to offer you a free telephone consultation.

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