Posted On: April 22, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

Woman Wins Injury Case Against Landowner

Whether one suffers from a simple broken bone, head injury, or as complicated as a brain injury which could lead to wrongful death because of the mistake or the carelessness of others, one always has recourse with the courts.

According to a Lawyer, a woman ultimately wins her case against a housing corporation landowner whose premises were abutting the sidewalk where she sustained injuries from a trip and fall incident in 2008.

The woman was walking on the sidewalk of a restaurant when she tripped and fell on the raised sidewalk. The woman at once went after the abutting landowner for failure to keep the sidewalk in “a reasonably safe condition” pursuant to NYC Administrative Code § 7-210 or simply “the Sidewalk Law”, but the landowner denied any liability.

Indeed, the Sidewalk Law states that “it shall be the duty of the owner of real property abutting any sidewalk… to maintain such sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition.” However, the law also does not impose a strict liability on the landowner itself. This portion of the law is what was claimed by the landowner, that under the law, it will only be liable for the woman’s injuries if it can be proven that it did not create the condition or even had actual or constructive notice of the condition. This means that the landowner should have been at least aware or made aware of the condition of the sidewalk before it can be liable for any damages.

In their defense, the landowner presented an affidavit through its treasurer that they have never observed or noticed any mis-leveling of any flagstones on the sidewalk abutting the premises where the woman have fallen and that the restaurant never informed any member of the corporation that something was wrong with the sidewalk before the unfortunate accident.
However, this defense was contradicted by the testimony of the restaurant manager when he testified that he noticed the roots of the tree in the sidewalk had caused the sidewalk to be mis-leveled. In fact, in his out-of-court testimony, he confirmed that he mentioned the sidewalk’s condition to the corporation’s treasurer and that said treasurer even gave the restaurant manager a printout with the numbers of the City departments to help him in trying to reach anybody who can help him fix the problem with the sidewalk. Yes, the very same treasurer of the corporation who earlier denied any knowledge of the condition.
In addition to the landowner’s defense, the said restaurant was owned by its tenant and by law, they are both free to secure a liability insurance for their common benefit which is what the restaurant exactly did.

In a commercial line policy issued to the restaurant where such insurance applies only to injuries of the body, property damage, personal and advertising injury, and medical expenses arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the premises and operations necessary or incidental to those premises, the insurance company also named the landowner as “additional insured” being insured with respect to liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the part of the premises leased. Being an additional insured then, the landowner is entitled to the same protection as the named insured, which is in this case, the restaurant.
This claim was however opposed by the insurance company who is now being asked by the landowner to pay the liabilities. In its attempt to get out of its liability, the insurance company tried to reason out that being an additional insured does not include coverage for claims arising from a duty imposable by law on the additional insured. That since the Sidewalk Law states that a landowner cannot delegate its duty to maintain the sidewalk, and the accident happened in the premises of the landowner, it should be the landowner who should be liable.
The landowner on the other hand argued that the accident indeed happened in its “premises” – the sidewalk adjacent to its premises which was used to go in and out of the restaurant and the same sidewalk used by the restaurant to set up table and serve food which is by assumption, “use of the premises and operations necessary or incidental to those premises” which is covered in the insurance policy that the insurance company issued to the restaurant.

In the end, it was resolved that the insurance policy eventually only covers the landowner for the excess over or as an addition to any other main insurance that the landowner may have by itself taken if that other insurance is not enough to pay the woman’s claims . Also, even though the landowner’s negligence was unresolved in this case, liability is not limited to a question of negligence under the law. As a result, the Court resolved the issues in favor of the woman and declared that the landowner has a duty to keep the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition pursuant to the Sidewalk Law and by such is therefore liable for the injuries sustained by the woman.

If you have suffered an injury as a consequence of another’s negligence or lack of concern, call or email us today at Stephen Bilkis & Associates for a free consultation. With the help of our New York Personal Injury Lawyers, we can give you advice and guidance to help you protect your rights.