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New York Appellate Division Affirms Denial of Summary Judgment to Store Owner in Premises Liability Suit

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.

Facts of the Case

In an appellate court case arising in the Supreme Court, Bronx County, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a man who had allegedly been hurt as a result of an accident at a store owned by the defendant corporation. It was unclear whether the man died as a result of the accident, but, at some point prior to his death, he testified that he had tripped over a platform that was protruding from the base of a product display located in one of the isles of the defendant’s store.

Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s premises liability claim against it. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed.

The Decision on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously affirmed the trial court’s order denying summary judgment relief to the defendant. In the appellate division’s opinion, the trial court had been correct in determining that the defendants had failed to meet the requisite showing required for summary judgment in a premises liability case insomuch as they had not shown as a matter of law that they did not have either actual or constructive notice of the allegedly hazardous condition at issue. Instead, the store manager had testified that the defendant’s employees were the ones who erected product displays such as the one that allegedly caused the decedent’s fall.

Given this fact, the reviewing court opined that it was possible for the jury to find that the defendant did cause or create the condition which allegedly resulted in the decedent’s injuries. As to the defendant’s argument that the condition was “open and obvious,” the court stated the openness of a given condition did not necessarily negate the defendant’s negligence; rather, it was simply another fact to be weighed by the jury in determining whether the defendant took reasonable steps to ensure that its store was reasonably safe for customers such as the decedent.

Call a Personal Injury Attorney in New York

A slip and fall accident can cause serious injuries that can result in high medical costs, not to mention lost income from time off from work. In some cases, a store customer might even die from injuries suffered in a fall down accident (or become permanently disabled). If you need legal advice about a trip and fall accident in a store, restaurant, or another public place, the experienced Syracuse premises liability attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP will be glad to explain your legal rights. Call us at 315-479-900 to schedule a free consultation. Our phones are answered 24/7, so there is no reason to put off the call.

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