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Property Owner Who Did Not Create Alleged Sidewalk Defect Should Have Been Granted Summary Judgment According to New York Appellate Court

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.

Here, the defendants introduced deposition testimony of the plaintiff and her husband, pictures of the accident scene, and a forensic engineer’s affidavit. According to the court, this evidence failed to establish, prima facie, that the defect at issue was “trivial” as a matter of law. Accordingly, the appellate court agreed with the trial court that summary judgment to the diner owner was not warranted. As to the firehouse, however, the reviewing court found that he was entitled to summary judgment because there was sufficient proof that it had not created the alleged defect and, thus, could not be held liable to the plaintiff for her injuries.

How to Contact an Attorney

The experienced personal injury attorneys at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, can help you determine whether you have a case of negligence against a store owner or other property owner following a slip and fall accident. To schedule a consultation with a helpful Syracuse premises liability lawyer to discuss your situation, call us at 315-479-9000. Please be mindful that there are time limitations for filing negligence claims, and it is extremely important those who have been injured on another’s property speak to an attorney as soon as possible so that their legal rights can be protected.

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