A lady was going down the stairs from the second floor of a building to the first floor lobby in a building located at 33-02 Skillman Avenue, Long Island City, New York. When she got to the last step, her left foot landed in a crack on the last step. Her foot got twisted in the crack; she lost her balance and fell. She brought this case for damages for the injuries she sustained as a result of her slip or trip and fall. She sued the owner of the building as well as the corporation that manages the building for the owner.
After the plaintiff was deposed, the building owner and building manager both filed a motion for summary judgment asking that the court dismiss the complaint at against them.
The Court first stated that a motion for summary judgment may only be granted when there are no more issues of material fact that need to be tried. It is the party who moved for summary judgment who has the burden of showing that he is entitled to the summary judgment as a matter of law because there is enough evidence to show that there is an absence of material facts that still need to be tried.
After the person seeking the summary judgment proves that he is entitled to the judgment, the complaining party then bears the burden of proving that there are still material issues of fact that need to be tried by the court.
The Court also reiterated the rule that liability for a dangerous or defective condition on real property usually lies with the party who has ownership, occupancy, control or special use of the real property. When the suit involves a claim of negligence, the complaining party must show that there is a duty of care; and that the party being sued has breached the duty of care; and that the breach of the duty of care caused the damages to the complaining party.
First, the building manager and the building owner allege that the lady did not know what exactly caused her to trip and fall down the stairs. The Court perused the transcript of the deposition and it is clear from the answers of the lady that she knows that she stepped on a crack on the last step of the flight of stairs leading the second floor of the building down to the lobby. She testified that because she had stepped on the crack, her foot got twisted at the ankle; she lost her balance; and fell down the stairs. The Court then ruled that the lady had sufficiently alleged the cause of her trip and fall.
Second, the building manager and the building owner allege that the lady failed to testify that the defendant created the defect or dangerous condition or, that they had actual or constructive notice of it. The Court also rejected this argument. The Court ruled that the motion for summary judgment submitted by the building owner and building manager had no evidence to support their claim that they had no notice of the defect or dangerous condition. The Court suggested that building owner and the building manager should have adduced evidence as to when they last cleaned or inspected the last step of the stairs.
Third, the building manager and the building owner assert that the crack on which the lady tripped and fell is too trivial to be actionable. The Court also rejected this argument. The issue of a defect being too trivial to be actionable is a proper issue of fact that should be determined at trial. Also, the Court said that the building owner and the building manager should have presented evidence that the crack was indeed too trivial. But they presented no such evidence.
The Court ruled then that the motion for summary judgment should be denied and the case remanded for trial.
Perhaps you own or manage a piece of real property. Someone has sued you for damages because they tripped and fell on a defect or dangerous condition on your property. What should you do? What should you say? How can you protect yourself? Do not be like the building owner or the building manager in this case. They failed to present evidence on the motion they themselves filed. Know your legal options; be informed of your legal recourse. You need an ably trained New York Trip and Fall lawyer who specializes in cases such as these. Stephen Bilkis and Associates have licensed New York Trip and Fall attorneys who can gather relevant evidence and present these intelligently before the court. Confer with a lawyer about your rights and your options: call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and ask for an appointment with a New York Trip and Fall lawyer who will assist you.