(CN) - A contractor that employed the man who hanged "Waitress" movie director Adrienne Shelly is not liable to the woman's family, a New York appeals court ruled.
The body of 40-year-old Shelly was found hanging from a sheet on the shower rod in the bathroom of her Manhattan office on Nov. 1, 2006 - less than two months before her latest title, "Waitress," was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Though it looked like a suicide, a sneaker print near the bathtub quickly led investigators to Diego Pillco, a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who was working on a renovation in the apartment below Shelly's office, according to The New York Times.
Pillco first told police that he had feared Pillco would have him arrested and deported for making too much noise, so he accidentally knocked her out with a punch.
He later said that he choked Shelly to death after a botched robbery.
After pleading guilty to manslaughter, Pillco was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2008.
The widowed Andrew Ostroy sued Pillco's employer, Bradford General Contractors Co., and its owner, Jus Hernandez, but a Manhattan judge granted the defendants summary judgment in July 2011.
The Manhattan-based First Department of the New York Appellate Division affirmed recently.
"The undocumented immigrant's murder of plaintiff's decedent was not within the permissible ambit of his employment," according to the unsigned decision. "Rather than furthering his employer's interests, Pillco's crime was motivated by his admitted personal fear that the decedent would contact the police of immigration authorities."
Ostroy also does not have a claim for negligence per se relating to Bradford's hiring of Pillco under the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the justices found.
"There is no evidence that the decedent was among the class of people for whose particular benefit the statute had been enacted," the decision states.
Ostroy also failed to show that his negligent hiring claim should go to trial.
"There is no evidence that Bradford was on notice that Pillco had a propensity for violence," the ruling states. "To the contrary, the record shows that Hernandez, Bradford's owner, regarded Philco as a normal and happy young man who never displayed signs of anger or a bad mood."
In addition to "Waitress," in which Shelly played a supporting role, and the 2005 art house film "Factotum," the indie star also portrayed lead roles in the cult classics "The Unbelievable Truth" and "Trust."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.