Property owners across New York City are required by law to comply with city building codes that, with the evolution of time, now include numerous, specific minimum requirements in order to make sure that tenants, visitors and guests are safe.
Even though the Department of Buildings issues thousands of building code violations in the city annually, egregiously unsafe conditions continue to persist, and as our New York City premises liability lawyers know, many people suffer injury as a result.
In some negligence cases, the standard to which a property owner may be held is going to depend heavily on the type of structure and its location. These matters tend to be more complex in a large, urban area because buildings may be zoned for mixed-use residential and commercial.
That was the issue in the recent Boston premises liability lawsuit of Sheehan v. Weaver, reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
Here, according to court records, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries after falling two stories onto pavement from a staircase outside his apartment after the guardrail gave way. Earlier in the evening, he had been out drinking alcohol with friends. He returned to his apartment, climbed the stairs up to his second-story doorway and then leaned on the guardrail. The guardrail broke.
A jury found the defendants strictly liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, citing a state statute that indicates owners of commercial properties must be held to this standard when their property violates state building code and that violation proximately causes an injury. The reason this particular statute was cited was because the property was also home to a few commercial offices on the other side of the structure.
The defendants appealed the verdict and requested a new trial, but that request was initially denied.
In a non-traditional move, the state high court had the case transferred to it on its own motion. The justices did not challenge the verdict of negligence, but found that the judge erred in allowing the claim to be filed under a statute citing commercial building code standards.
The court found that although the property had some commercial use, the incident in question did not occur on that portion of the property and the staircase was not ever used for commercial purposes. Therefore, the court found, the case should only have been allowed to proceed under residential commercial building code laws, which apply a different liability standard.
We have in-depth knowledge of the New York City Building Code, the New York City Housing Maintenance code and New York premise liability laws. Property owners are required to maintain safe stairways, elevators, ingress/egress methods, reasonable security measures, ice and snow removal, prompt repair of known faulty wiring or other electrical problems and mandatory removal of mold, lead paint or other toxins.
If you have suffered injury due to unsafe conditions on a residential or commercial property, we can help.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Sheehan v. Weaver, April 10, 2014, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
More Blog Entries:
New York Bill Would Boost Liability for Landlords Who Fail to Provide Proper Security, March 23, 2014, New York City Premises Liability Lawyer