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Appeals Court Affirms Denial of Summary Judgment in New York Woman’s Premises Liability Lawsuit Against Housing Authority

Of the many Syracuse premises liability lawsuits that are filed, in addition to those filed elsewhere in New York, very few actually make it to trial. There are two main reasons for this.

First of all, as with other types of civil claims, many slip and fall cases are settled out of court. The defendant agrees to pay a certain sum of money to the plaintiff (sometimes without actually admitting liability), and the plaintiff agrees to accept that sum and dismiss his or her case.

Secondly, a significant number of cases are resolved via summary judgment procedure. When summary judgment is granted, a court is essentially saying that looking at the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party, the party seeking summary judgment is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, without the need for a jury trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against a city housing authority in the Supreme Court of Bronx County, asserting that she had been injured after slipping and falling on ice on the defendant’s premises in 2015. More specifically, the plaintiff averred that she had fallen on ice that was on a playground; she said that she did not notice the ice until after the fall and described it as “shiny and dirty.” The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking judgment as a matter of law based on its alleged lack of actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition about which the plaintiff complained.

The defendant filed certain weather records in support of its motion, along with an affidavit from a climatologist who opined that it was not possible for ice to have formed at the premises in question during the 24 hours before the incident in question. The plaintiff submitted deposition testimony from two of the defendants’ employees, both of whom stated that de-icing material was  being applied to the area at the time of the fall. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and it appealed.

Decision of the Court

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. According to the court, the evidence introduced by the plaintiff in opposition to the defendant’s motion (the testimony of the defendant’s employees, along with a photograph of the area in which she fell (taken shortly after the accident by the plaintiff’s son)) was enough to created a factual issue appropriate for the consideration of a jury.

While denial of summary judgment was a “win” for the plaintiff, it should be noted that she still has the burden of proving that the hazardous condition at issue actually caused her fall and that the condition had existed for a sufficient amount of time to create a constructive notice of the danger for the defendant. The mere existence of a dangerous condition on a landowner’s property does not, in and of itself, mean that the owner will be held liable; liability is only triggered in situations in which the property owner either actually knew about the condition or in which the condition had existed for a such an amount of time that a reasonable owner would have discovered it.

Call a Syracuse Premises Liability Attorney

If you have slipped and fallen at a store, restaurant, or other public location, you may be entitled to payment for your injuries. To learn more about your legal rights, call the experienced Syracuse premises liability lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000. The consultation is free, so please do not delay talking to a lawyer about your case!

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