Business owners are held liable for their own actions and the corporate veil will not protect you in every instance. In September of 2017 the Appellate Division in New York County upheld a jury verdict holding the owner of a crane company personally responsible for money damages awarded in two wrongful death cases. The deaths occurred as the result of the May 30, 2008, 91st First Street Crane Collapse. The Court ruled that the owner of the crane company operated three separate entities which he dominated and controlled as if they were one entity. All of the companies shared the same offices and email system, there was overlap of management and administrative personnel. All senior management, including the owner, in-house counsel, and all salaried employees were paid by the same company. They all worked out of the same offices, the entities rented out each other’s equipment at will; actual ownership did not matter. the Principal would decide later how much one company should pay the other, and thus had the ability to shift profits between companies.
The Court further ruled that owner participated in launching the dangerous instrumentality that caused the deaths of the plaintiffs; thereby being responsible, and accountable for causing the harm. As in all veil piercing cases the facts matter. But, the patterns of behavior are repeated in almost every business enterprise, and as the owner you have to know where your liability starts and ends.
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