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Slip & Falls

Frequently asked questions:

Q: What are “slip and fall” and “trip and fall” cases, and how can someone be liable to a person who is injured in this way?

A: “Slip and fall” or “trip and fall” cases typically happen on sidewalks or in the street, but also happen in homes, office buildings, stores, theaters, stadiums, and many other locations. You may have a case if you slipped/tripped as a result of some defect or dangerous condition which someone negligently caused or allowed to remain unfixed. For example, if someone failed to properly light their stairs on their porch, they might be liable to someone who fell down the stairs because they could not see them. Or, if a store owner failed to clean up a spill (e.g., a carton of milk) in a timely manner, they might be liable to someone who slipped and fell in the spill.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining a sidewalk on a public street in NewYork City?

A: The City of New York is responsible for maintaining public sidewalks. However, the City of New York is only liable to someone injured as a result of a defect on a sidewalk (e.g., a hole or large crack) if a City employee caused the defect (e.g., doing excavation work) or if the City had WRITTEN notice of such a defect, pursuant to the “Pothole Law”.

Q: What is the “Pothole Law” and how does it affect my claim for injuries I received from a fall on a public sidewalk?

A: New York City, and many other municipalities in New York State, have laws which protect them from liability to persons injured as a result of defects in sidewalks, streets, and other public locations unless they received WRITTEN notice of these defects at least 15 days prior to the accident (under the law generally, if the municipality negligently CAUSED the defect, they may be liable regardless of whether they received written notice of the defect). There is a company called BIG APPLE POTHOLE which provides written notice to New York City in the form of maps of defects on the sidewalks (but not streets).

Q: Is an abutting property owner liable to someone who falls on a public sidewalk in front of their building?

A: Generally speaking, no, unless the property owner caused a particular defect which caused the person to fall, or if the defect was caused by some “special use” which benefitted the property owner in some way. For example, water running off from a car wash over a sidewalk causing it to wear away over time and become dangerous would be an example of such a “special use”. The owner of that property may be liable to someone who fell as a result of that condition.

Q: If I slipped on a banana peel in a grocery store and injured myself, would I have a case against the store?

A: That would depend on whether you could show where that banana peel came from. If an EMPLOYEE of the store threw it down on the ground after his/her lunch break, you would probably have a case. Or if you could show that the banana peel had been on the ground for a long time and that the store SHOULD have cleaned it up in the regular course of proper maintenance of the store, you might also have a case against the store. But if, for example, a customer ate a banana from the fruit display and threw the peel down there a few seconds before you fell, you probably would have a case only against that customer.