A student at the City University of New York was leaving the Performing Arts Center of Queens College at 11:30 p.m. when she stepped on a broken and raised part of the stairs which caused her to trip and fall. As it turned out, the student made a mistake when she mentioned in her complaint that she tripped and fell on the dangerous defect on the third set of stairs instead of the second set of stairs. She claimed that the stairs in front of the Performing Arts Center was poorly maintained and poorly lighted. She then asks for leave of court to amend her original complaint to reflect that she tripped and fell on the third set of stairs.
The City University of New York vigorously opposed the motion claiming that her mistake in the complaint is a defective flaw which fails to comply with the requirement of the statute. Under the Court of Claims Act, claims for personal injury must state the time and the place where the claim arose, specifically stating the nature of the claim and the injuries sustained.
The Claims Court is now tasked to determine whether the allegations contained in the student’s complaint is sufficient to comply with the requirements of the statute.
The Court notes that the law is strict in that failure to comply with the requirement of specifically stating the ultimate facts which comprise the cause and nature of the injury as well as the specific time and place it occurred will make the complaint susceptible to dismissal for failure to properly allege a cause of action. It is a jurisdictional infirmity that cannot be repaired by amending the complaint. A complaint with a defective or non-existent cause of action cannot be remedied by amendment as one cannot amend a complaint that, in the eyes of the law, does not exist.
The Performing Arts Center of Queens College has a long and wide stairway leading from the sidewalk to the entrance of the building. The long and wide stairway is broken into three sets of stairs by wide landings but the sets of stairs are still connected as one long stairway by those wide landings.
When the student mentioned in her complaint that she fell on the broken and raised steps of the third set of stairs instead of on the second set of stairs where the only broken and raised steps were located, did she commit a fatal flaw that would cause her complaint to be dismissed?
The Court opined that identifying the specific step on the stairs where the trip and fall occurred is not required by the law. This is logical because a trip and fall may involve bouncing off of more than one step. But the Court also observed that if there are more than one set of stairs, it would be necessary to specifically state the particular set of stairs where and when the trip and fall occurred.
The Court noted with approval the observation by the Court of Appeals that the guiding purpose of the requirement for definite statements on the specific place and time of the trip and fall was to enable to courts to investigate the claim and to ascertain the liability.
The Court held that absolute exactness is not required by the law. Since there is only one long stairway in front of the Queens College Performing Arts Center, and the long stairway is broken only by landings, the student’s allegation in her complaint is sufficient compliance with the requirements of the statute. Under the original wording of the complaint, it can be determined where and when the trip and fall occurred. Thus, the Court granted the student’s motion for leave to amend her complaint.
You may be a student who tripped and fell at a sidewalk in your school. Whom can you sue? How can you word your complaint so that it specifically states the particular place and time when your injury was sustained? You need a New York Trip and Fall lawyer to help you draft your complaint. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, they have trained New York Trip and Fall attorneys who can help you present your claims coherently. They can help build your case and present evidence in your behalf. They can argue for you and stand with you to see that you are compensated for your injuries. Call Stephen Bilkis & Associates and ask to meet with a New York Trip and Fall lawyer who specializes in personal injury litigation as these.