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Because of Lack of Constructive Notice, Dismissal of Premises Liability Case is Affirmed on Appeal by New York Court

Property owners and those that own businesses have certain obligations to the public. While stores, restaurants, and shops aren’t the insurers of every individual who sets foot on their premises, they do have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to others.

In many cases, the resolution of whether or not the business or landowner is liable for a guest’s Syracuse premises liability accident depends upon how long the allegedly dangerous condition existed. Even if the property owner did not have actual notice of the condition, there could still be liability if “constructive” notice was present.

Constructive notice exists when a condition was in place long enough for a reasonably prudent business or landowner to have become aware of the danger and taken steps to correct it. The exact time necessary for constructive notice to be present is usually dependent upon the facts of a specific case.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent New York appellate tribunal case was a man who slipped and fell on a “plastic piece” on the defendant property owner’s sidewalk. He filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner, seeking to recover fair compensation for his injuries. The defendant asserted that it was not to blame for the plaintiff’s accident and, thus, was not liable to him for payment of his medical costs, compensation for pain and suffering, and/or other damages allegedly caused by his fall.

The Supreme Court of New York County granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, agreeing with the defendant that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed rather than continuing toward a trial by jury. The plaintiff sought review from the intermediate appeals court.

The Decision of the Reviewing Court on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s cause of action against the defendant on summary judgment. According to the court, the defendant had met its prima facie burden on its summary judgment motion by demonstrating that it lacked either actual or constructive notice of the condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In the court’s view, this was accomplished through the defendant’s introduction of the plaintiff’s deposition testimony in support of its motion.

In his deposition, the plaintiff had testified that he had walked past the location in which the accident occurred earlier – about 20 minutes prior to the accident – but did not see the piece of plastic that he claimed caused his fall. He also said that he had “no knowledge” of the presence of the plastic piece until after the accident happened. Because the plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the length of time in which the piece of plastic had been on the sidewalk, the defendant was entitled to summary judgment.

To Talk to a Lawyer Who Handles Personal Injury Cases

Proving that a Syracuse property owner or business operator has acted negligently and caused a shopper or guest to be injured can be very challenging. If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, it pays to contact an attorney experienced in these types of cases as soon as possible so that evidence can be preserved and an appropriate investigation can be conducted. To get started with a free case review, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000. Our phones are answered 24/7, so please don’t put off the call!

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