& PERSONAL INJURY
New York Personal Injury Attorneys
The law holds property owners, including homeowners, owners of apartment building, co-ops, condos, stores, shopping centers, office buildings, parking lots or government buildings, responsible for maintaining safe premises for the public, individuals conducting business and people visiting their businesses. When hazardous conditions exist, the owner or manager has an obligation to warn guests or post signs to warn the public.
Examples of Premises Liability Accidents
While slip, trip and falls on sidewalks, wet, slippery floors, uneven steps or lose carpeting are among the most common premises liability accidents, dog bite or animal attacks often occur when dangerous animals are not restrained. If a swimming pool is not fenced and a child falls into the pool and drowns, the owner may be liable. Owners of hotels, office buildings and parking lots, for example, may also be liable for serious injury if they failed to provide adequate lighting and security measures and customers or guests as assaulted, robbed or killed.
You may have grounds for a premises liability claim, if you can prove the property owner:
- Was aware of the hazardous condition
- Failed to correct the condition, thereby causing injury
- Owed you a legal duty to exercise reasonable care.
Elements Involved in a Premises Liability Accident
Notice – In nearly all premises cases, your attorney will have to prove that the defendant knew about the dangerous condition that caused the accident and that defendant knew about it for a period of time that was long enough to have done something about it. How long is long enough changes according to the facts and circumstances of each case. Take the following example: A customer in a supermarket knocks a bottle of olive oil off the shelf, breaking it on the floor, and another customer slips on it 30 seconds later. In this case, the store will probably not be held responsible, because they did not have enough opportunity to find out about the olive oil and clean it up. On the other hand, testimony that there were footprints of olive oil tracked up and down several aisles is evidence that the employees had enough time that they should have noticed it and cleaned it up.
Defendant Caused or Created the Condition – It is not necessary to prove that the defendant had notice of the condition where the defendant caused or created the condition. In the previous example, if a store employee stocking shelves dropped the olive oil bottle, someone who slips in it and falls 30 seconds later wins against the supermarket, because a store employee caused and created the condition.
Recurring Condition – It is also not necessary to prove notice where there is a “recurring condition”, i.e. water is accumulating on an interior stairway in a subway station, if an employee of the defendant testifies that he observed the same conditions on prior occasions coming from the same leaky pipe. In this example, even if the water began dripping 30 seconds before the accident, there is no need to prove notice, because the recurring nature of the condition is the proof of the notice.
Assumption of Risk – comes up frequently in sports injury cases. Where someone voluntarily engages in an activity involving a risk of harm, and knows or should know and understand the risk, this is called assumption of risk. For example, where a professional baseball player was held to have assumed the risk where he knew of the poor condition of the field, understood the risk of injury and continued to participate in the game anyway, see Maddox v. New York 66 NY2d 270, 496 NYS2d 726 and Turcotte v. Fell, 68 NY2d 432, 510 NYS2d 49. This can only apply, though, where the injured person has the capacity to understand and fully appreciate the risk. This is obviously measured by a different standard where the injured person is a child.
However, there is a still a duty to protect players from unassumed, concealed, or unreasonably increased risks, Benitez v. NYC Bd. Of Educ., 73 NY2d 650, 543 NYS2d 29; Rawson v. Massapequa Union Free School Dist., 251 AD2d 311, 674 NYS2d 388.
Assumption of Risk does not necessarily take away the right to sue for risks that are not inherent in the activity, or for negligent supervision.
Comparative Negligence – In almost all premises accidents, the defense argues that the accident occurred either completely or partially because of the plaintiff’s own negligence – an issue that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Thus, it is not possible to give any general rules without knowing all the facts of the situation. Suffice to say, you should not give a statement to any insurance company representative or store manager before retaining an attorney because the adjusters will put words in your mouth. Insurance people are very experienced and will twist and distort what you mean to say, which could make the comparative negligence a much larger problem that causes serious problems in the case.
Public Sidewalks – The City of New York is no longer responsible for most accidents that occur on public sidewalks. In 2003, § 7-210(b) of the New York City Administrative Code was enacted, which took the responsibility away from the City and gave it to the private owner of the property that borders on the sidewalk. This means that the private owner is generally responsible for any injuries caused by failure to maintain the sidewalk, which covers everything from cracks in the concrete, to failure to remove snow, ice or dirt. The rule does not apply to one, two or three family homes, as long as (i) one of the owners lives there, and as long as (ii) it is not being used for any business purpose. If a building is used for City business, the City is still responsible and there are special conditions which must be met to sue the City successfully in a sidewalk case. If the lot that borders on the sidewalk is City property, such as a public park, the sidewalk is still the responsibility of the City. Special rules may apply if the building is used by any municipal entity other than the City of New York, such as the Transit Authority or the Housing Authority.
If you are injured while on someone else’s property, an experienced personal injury attorney can determine if you are eligible to recover compensation, including medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and punitive damages. Some of these cases, particularly those involving a City or government agency, can also involve very short time limits for taking action, so if you have been injured, consult with our law firm right away.
Contact a New York Premises Liability Attorney
Seeking legal help as soon as possible is in your best interests. The timeliness of your claim, your reason for being on the property and demonstrating the property owner’s negligence are factors that determine the basis of a claim. At the Law Offices of William Cafaro, our attorneys represent clients in a wide range of personal injury accidents, including those involving premises liability. Call our New York City law firm at (212) 683-7400 to schedule a no cost, no obligation case evaluation. Find out if you have grounds to file a premises liability claim.
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