Landon v. Kroll Lab. Specialists, Inc.

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This appeal addressed whether the plaintiff, Eric Landon, stated a cause of action to survive a motion to dismiss by the defendant, Kroll Laboratory Specialists, Inc. (“Kroll”), for the alleged negligent testing of his biological sample. After a January 2002 conviction of second-degree forgery, Plaintiff was sentenced to a five-year probation term with the Orange County Probation Department (“the County”), which required him to submit to random drug testing. Kroll tested Plaintiff’s December 17, 2007, oral fluid sample—collected using an Intercept DOA Oral Specimen Collection Device manufactured by Orasure Technologies, Inc. (“Orasure”)—pursuant to a contract between the County and Kroll. Plaintiff also obtained an independent blood test in order to protect himself from a possible false positive. Kroll’s results indicated the presence of cannabis, which led to a violation of probation proceeding where the County intended to revoke Plaintiff’s probationary sentence and incarcerate him. The proceedings were withdrawn and terminated on March 20, 2008, in favor of Plaintiff after he submitted the negative result of his independent blood test and submitted to a urine test at the same time, which tested negative.

Plaintiff then commenced this action alleging that Kroll was negligent on several grounds: (1) Kroll issued a positive result that was based on a cutoff level substantially lower than that recommended by Orasure or federal standards, which Kroll did not indicate on the report; (2) that Plaintiff’s sample was not subject to any confirmation test before the positive result was reported; and (3) that Kroll did not follow the requisite guidelines, which required that a urine sample be taken with oral samples in order to protect against false positives. The Supreme Court of Orange County granted Kroll’s motion to dismiss, but the appellate division reversed, holding that Plaintiff stated a cause of action despite the fact that the parties did not have a contractual relationship.

On appeal, the Court upheld the ruling by the appellate division. Although not all contractual relationships provide a source of tort liability to third parties, a duty may arise “where the contracting party, in failing to exercise reasonable care in the performance of [its] duties, launche[s] a force or instrument of harm.” Espinal v. Melville Snow Contractors, 773 N.E.2d 485, 488 (N.Y. 2002). Kroll did not exercise reasonable care in testing Plaintiff’s biological sample when it failed to adhere to adhere to professional standards and released Plaintiff’s positive result. Kroll was in the best position to prevent false positives, and therefore had a duty to ensure against false positives that could result in profound consequences for a test subject. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleged that he suffered a cognizable harm. To the Court, his allegations of loss of freedom from a possible extension of probation, and the emotional and psychological harm he experienced afterwards, were sufficient grounds to withstand a motion to dismiss.

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2013 WL 5566452, 2013 N.Y. Slip Op. 06597

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