Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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Under New York law, property owners have a duty to maintain their premises so that they are safe for all legal entrants. When property owners fail to uphold this obligation, it often leads to dangerous conditions, and people hurt in accidents caused by such hazards may be able to recover damages via premises liability lawsuits. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion discussing what a plaintiff must prove to establish that a property owner should be held liable for harm suffered in a slip and fall accident caused by a known hazard. If you were hurt in a fall on someone else’s property, you should speak to a trusted Syracuse slip and fall accident attorney to determine what claims you may be able to pursue.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff was an adult camper at a camp owned by the defendants. The camp, which was for developmentally disabled adults, had a path that ran behind the dining hall. When the plaintiff was walking on the path one evening, he slipped and fell down an embankment and sustained injuries. The path was bordered by a strip of grass, which was wet from evening dew at the time of the fall, and did not have a railing.

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s mother filed a lawsuit against the defendant on behalf of the plaintiff, alleging negligence claims. The plaintiff could not offer testimony as to the circumstances that led to the fall due to his disabilities. Thus, the defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff could not establish how the fall occurred. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading

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Tragedy can strike in just a moment. One minute, someone is driving down the road, going in for a routine medical procedure, or even standing in the parking lot of a mall, and the next minute their life is changed forever.

When someone is hurt because of another’s failure to take reasonable care as required by law, the injured individual has a right to seek compensation via a personal injury or negligence lawsuit. While the burden of proof at trial in a Syracuse personal injury case is on the plaintiff, it is quite possible that he or she can be awarded a considerable amount of money in compensation for the injuries suffered due to the defendant’s negligence or carelessness.

Of course, as with any other remedy awarded by a trial court, it is possible that the plaintiff will have to continue the fight in the appellate courts. Defendants may have one or several alleged errors that they believe entitle them to a reversal of the trial court’s entry of judgment on the verdict, a downward adjustment of the verdict, or other relief.

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Property owners are not liable for every injury that happens on their premises. For instance, it would be unlikely that liability would lie with a property owner in a Syracuse premises liability lawsuit in which a passerby was struck by a limb blown down by tornadic or hurricane-force winds.

However, if a particular accident was reasonably foreseeable to the property owner, liability may indeed be imposed. In the example of the downed limb, the landowner might become liable if the injured person could prove that the limb in question was from a dead tree that, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have been cut down months or even years before the plaintiff’s injury and could have been blown down by much less severe winds. In other words, maybe that tree branch was “an accident just waiting to happen.”

Snow and ice are also natural events about which a property owner’s liability depends very much on the circumstances of a particular accident. In some situations, others besides the landowner may also be held liable.

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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.

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Property owners have certain duties to the general public, especially those who come upon their premises for a business purpose (such as a customer shopping in a store). When the landowner or property manager does not maintain a place of business in a reasonably safe manner, a person injured thereby may have grounds to file a Syracuse premises liability claim.

It is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after such an accident, as spoliation of the evidence can create challenges later on as the plaintiff seeks to establish a case of liability. Photos should be taken of the scene, witnesses should be interviewed, and any surveillance video should be preserved.

An attorney experienced in such matters can be a great asset to a person injured on another’s property. Together, the injured person and his or her counsel can build as strong a case as possible against the landowner as the case progresses towards a trial by jury.

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Syracuse personal injury cases have many steps. Once an attorney has been contacted and an investigation has been made into the facts of the event giving rise to the litigation, the next step is to file a formal complaint in a court of law. After that, the case proceeds to the discovery phase.

Just as the name suggests, the discovery phase of litigation is the time during which each side is allowed an opportunity to learn more about his or her opponent’s case. Of course, there are limitations on the scope of such discovery, and disputes can arise regarding whether one party or the other has stepped over the line of what is acceptable.

The trial court controls the discovery phase of litigation, ruling upon the various motions of the litigants as the matter progresses. When a ruling is unfavorable, the affected party may be able to have the matter reviewed by a higher court (although, in some situations, the matter cannot be appealed until after the case has proceeded to a later phase of litigation, such as trial or disposition by summary judgment).

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Under New York law, those who operate businesses that have parking lots, sidewalks, or steps attached to their premises have certain duties to those who use those areas to walk into the owner’s shop, store, or other establishment in order to conduct business. As is typical in personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof in a Syracuse premises liability lawsuit is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. In many cases, however, the defendant will attempt to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed prior to trial via a motion for summary judgment. In cases involving snow and ice, the defendant may argue that the accident happened during a storm and that, thus, it should not be held liable for the accident. In such a situation, it is up to the defendant to provide credible evidence of the weather conditions at the time of the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who allegedly slipped and fell in a snowy parking lot owned by the defendant convenience store. She filed suit in the Supreme Court of Niagara County, seeking compensation for her injuries. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to clear the snow and ice upon which the plaintiff fell because there was still a storm in progress at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant filed an appeal.

Decision of the Court

The New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s summary judgment motion. In so holding, the court noted that the defendant relied  primarily upon a meteorologist’s affidavit to the effect that it was still snowing in the town in which the accident occurred at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. In reviewing this affidavit, the appellate division pointed out that the records upon which the defendant’s expert relied were taken from three other towns – not the town in which the plaintiff fell. In opposition to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff offered a different meteorologist’s report, in which the meteorologist opined that there was no way to state within a reasonable degree of professional certainty whether or not it was snowing at the time in question in the town in which the plaintiff fell.

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In order to prove liability in a Syracuse slip and fall case, the plaintiff must be able to show that an unreasonably safe condition existed and that the defendant proximately caused his or her injuries by creating the condition or in allowing the condition to remain after it should, by the exercise of due diligence, have been discovered and corrected. Without this important link of causation, the plaintiff will not be successful at trial. In many premises liability cases, the defendant will readily admit that there was a dangerous condition that led to the plaintiff’s injuries but deny that it created the condition or knew/should have known about the situation. When evidence is conflicting, it is the job of the jury to resolve any contradictions in the evidence. It is very difficult (although not impossible) to disturb a jury’s verdict on appeal.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of Kings County, the primary plaintiff was a carpenter who was hurt when he slipped and fell on a wet floor while installing carpet in a building upon which the defendant waterproofing company had been hired to repair a recurrent leak. According to the complaint filed by the carpenter and his wife, the defendant had been negligent in its repair of the roof, thus causing the wet floor conditions that allegedly led to the carpenter’s fall. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in the defendant’s favor on the basis that the defendant had not created or exacerbated the unsafe condition of the floor. The trial court entered judgment upon the jury’s favor, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Holding

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, affirmed the trial court’s order entering judgment on the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant. Although the plaintiffs argued on appeal that the jury’s verdict had been against the weight of the evidence, the reviewing tribunal disagreed with this assertion. A jury verdict could only be set aside as being “contrary to the weight of the evidence” if the evidence preponderated so heavily in favor of the party seeking relief from the verdict that the jury could not have fairly interpreted the evidence. If a different view from that promulgated by the party seeking relief on appeal could be reasonable had, the verdict should not be disturbed. Rather, there should be a presumption that the jury viewed the evidence in that light supposed by the prevailing party, rather than in the manner insisted upon by the opposing party.

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Under New York law, property owners have certain responsibilities when it comes to maintaining their property. If this duty of care is breached, a person injured in an accident on the property may be able to pursue fair monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages.

If you have been hurt in a trip and fall accident, it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence can disappear quickly in these types of cases, making negligence more difficult to prove as time goes by. Talking to an attorney about your fall doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Our knowledgeable Syracuse premises liability attorneys do not charge a consultation fee and will be glad to explain your legal rights following an accident caused by another’s neglect or carelessness.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who tripped and fell on a sidewalk located in front of the defendant residents’ home. The plaintiff sued both the residents of the home and the city in which the property was located, seeking monetary compensation for her injuries. The residents filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that there were no material issues of fact that needed to be determined by the jury and, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the injured woman, they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In support of their motion, the residents submitted evidence that they were exempt from the statutory liability created by the Administrative Code of the City of New York § 7—210(b) because the property in front of which the plaintiff suffered her fall was an owner-occupied, two-family residence. The defendant residents also averred that there was no evidence showing that they made special use of the area.

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New York property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. When this does not happen, a New York premises liability lawsuit provides a legal remedy to the injured accident victim. Of course, not every slip and fall on another’s property will result in a favorable judgment for the injured person. There are many factors that must be considered. Some of these factors include the nature of the alleged defect, how long the defect had been present, and whether the landowner was aware of the defect and had time to correct it prior to the accident.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a woman who injured her shoulder when she her foot caught the lip of a raised concrete sidewalk slab while walking toward a diner in May 2016. The woman, joined in the suit by her husband, sought compensation for her injuries, alleging that the defendants, the owner of the diner and the owner of a nearby firehouse, were negligent and that this negligence was the cause of her injuries. Both defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The Supreme Court of Greene County denied the defendants’ motions, and they appealed, arguing that the alleged defect about which the plaintiff complained was trivial and, thus, not actionable under New York law.

Decision of the Court

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, modified the trial court’s order by reversing the denial of the firehouse’s motion for summary judgment but affirming as to the part of the order denying the diner owner’s motion. The court began by acknowledging that trivial defects do not render a landowner liable for a guest’s injuries but noting that there is no “predetermined height differential” in a sidewalk or other walking area (such as the one upon which the plaintiff was injured) that automatically rendered a defect trivial or not trivial. Rather, courts must consider various factors, including width, depth, elevation, irregularity, and appearance of the accident location. The time, place, and circumstances of the plaintiff’s injury may also be considered by a reviewing court.

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