Premises liability is an area of law designed to protect certain individuals from unsafe or dangerous conditions.

Generally, most premise liability cases involve slip and fall accidents. This type of accident can occur in many situations, ranging from tripping on a product in a store aisle to slipping on an ice covered sidewalk. Such accidents can result in serious injuries, and negligent property owners in New York City and all across the country can be held accountable for these injuries under the law.

New York City’s Premises Liability Law and Sidewalks

Premises liability can be placed on property owners who, specifically, fail to maintain reasonably safe walkways free of hazards. In New York City, this applies to property owners who install, construct, repave and repair the sidewalk adjacent to their properties. Owners are also responsible for maintaining the intersection quadrant and pedestrian ramps on corner properties as well.

Common sidewalk defects include:

  • Missing portions of sidewalk
  • Cracks and loosening of concrete
  • Improper slope resulting in retained water

Varying Degrees of Responsibility

The level of care required by property owners can depend on the status of the injured individual. Generally, there are three different labels for those using walkways in New York: invitee, licensee or trespasser.

An invitee status applies to those entering the property for business purposes. This can include customers and patrons of restaurants. This type of visitor generally requires the highest level of care. A licensee enters for his own purpose, or as a social guest, at the consent of the owner. In contrast a trespasser enters without any right to be present on the property.

The trend with these classifications is a movement away from the three individual classifications and a focus on legality of presence. As a result, anyone legally allowed on the property falls within reasonable expectations of safety while those illegally on the property are not protected.

The rules are different with respect to children, whether invited or not. If it is likely that children will be on the property, the owner has a duty to warn of any potential hazards or dangerous conditions that could cause serious bodily injury or death. An owner that fails to exercise reasonable care in eliminating a potential risk to children will likely be liable for any resulting injuries.

If a licensee or invitee suffers an injury, property owners will likely be held liable if they are aware of the dangerous condition and failed to take reasonable steps to remove the hazard.

New York City Administrative Penalties

In addition to potential civil liability, the New York City Administrative Code will issue a notice to property owners who fail to take the necessary steps to provide safe walkways.

If property owners do not take necessary steps to provide safe walkways, the Department of Transportation may become involved. This occurs when residents complain about the presence of dangerous condition, leading to an inspection and if a violation is found a notice is issued.

If a notice of violation is received property owners are required to repair the defect. If the defect is not repaired in a timely manner, the city may hire a contractor to make the required repairs and bill the owners for the work.

Many other municipalities outside of New York City have similar ordinances in place as well.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Anyone injured as a result of property owners’ failure to maintain their property as required under the law may be able to recover compensation to cover, for instance, medical and rehabilitative costs associated with their injury.

However, New York is a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction meaning that a defendant or property owner has the ability to demonstrate a “plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care” and was thus fully or partially responsible for his or her injuries. If property owners are successful in this defense, the amount of recoverable damages could decrease.

Due to the complex nature of premises liability law, if you or a loved one suffered an injury from a hazardous sidewalk, it is important to contact an experienced New York premises liability attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and how the law could be applied in your particular situation.