New York state does not adhere to a theory of strict liability with regard to premises liability. This means that simply because a person suffers an injury on property belonging to another person or business does not necessarily mean the injured party is entitled to damages.
Our Manhattan premises liability attorneys recognize there are many factors that will come into play, including the classification of the property owner (business or residential), the classification of the injured party (a trespasser, licensee or business invitee), the nature of the hazard that caused the injury and whether it was open and obvious.
Unfortunately, New York law tends to favor commercial property owners in that a plaintiff needs to prove the property owner or lessee caused the unsafe or defective condition or should have known about it, and failed to do anything about it. Injured parties also have to show the condition was a substantial factor in causing injury. Courts will also look closely at what degree of responsibility the injured party had in the accident. This is known as comparative negligence, and it could reduce recovery of damages, or in some cases, preclude it entirely.
We note this here not to discourage injured parties from bringing a lawsuit, but rather to understand matters at hand may not be as simple as they initially appear. This is why it’s critical to hire an injury lawyer with extensive experience in handling these sorts of cases. With careful analysis of the facts of your case, we can give you a good sense upfront whether your case is worth pursuing, and if so, help you to formulate the strategy that will enhance your chances of success.
The recent case of Fajardo v. Schapiro, before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, reveals how tough some of these hurdles can be to overcome.
Here, plaintiff reportedly slipped on construction debris, causing him to lose his balance and fall on the landing at the top of an interior staircase that connected the basement to the first floor of a property owned by the defendants. The plaintiff alleged the staircase hallway was not equipped with handrails. When he began to fall and reached out to catch himself, there was nothing there to grab.
The defendants at first unsuccessfully argued they were entitled to a motion for summary judgment because, it was asserted, they did not create the hazardous condition or have constructive notice of it, as is the standard laid forth in the previous case law in Gordon v. American Museum of Natural History. Further, defendants argued the Administrative Code of the City of New York 27-375, which details property owner obligations and safety requirements for interior stairs, was not applicable in this situation because the stairway connected the first floor to the basement, and did not serve as a required exit from the building.
It’s important to note that while violation of a building code is not necessary to prove a premises liability case, it can serve as a strong foundation.
Here, the appellate court found in light of the issues raised by the defense, there remained no triable issue of fact, and the case was dismissed.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Fajardo v. Schapiro, Aug. 6, 2014, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department
More Blog Entries:
Hamilton v. Miller – Landlord Liability in New York Lead Paint Lawsuits, Aug. 1, 2014, New York City Premises Liability Lawyer