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New York City Transit Authority’s motion for summary judgment granted – Garcia-Martinez v. City of New York, 2008 NY Slip Op 51321(U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 6/13/2008)


The issue in this slip and fall case is who was responsible for making sure a sidewalk was clear of hazards by properly clearing snow.

Plaintiff Garcia, who was 50-years old at the time of the accident, was seriously injured after stepping off a NYCTA bus in the early afternoon of February 9, 2004. After stepping off the bus and taking a few steps, she slipped on the ice at the bus stop and suffered a fracture that required surgery and pinning. In addition, she suffered multiple disc herniations. The bus stop was located directly in between abutting premises at 1871 and 1873 Amsterdam Avenue. The owner of 1871 Amsterdam Avenue is defendant Moy Realty, and the owner of 1873 Amsterdam Avenue is defendant Amsterdam Realty. The accident occurred after the implementation of the new sidewalk law, Administrative Code of the City of New York (NYCAC) § 7-210, which now places the burden on the abutting landowner to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition from the building to the street curb.

Based on the serious injuries she suffered from slipping and falling on the ice, Plaintiff Garcia filed a personal injury lawsuit and named several defendants: Moy Realty, Amsterdam Realty, the City of New York, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), and Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operation Authority (MABSTOA). The defendants filed motions for summary judgment dismissing the claim.

The basis for New York City’s motion for summary judgment dismissal is that because of New York’s new sidewalk law, the abutting landowners became responsible for the removal of snow and ice. Thus, New York City was not responsible for clearing the ice and snow, defendant’s Moy Realty and Amsterdam Realty are responsible.

Moy Realty and Amsterdam Realty agree that they are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their property, they both argue that it is not their responsibility to maintain bus stops. They contend that maintenance of bus stops was the duty of the Department of Sanitation prior to the new sidewalk law and that it maintains the duty of the Department of Sanitation.

The legislative history of the new sidewalk law is silent on whether the legislature contemplated passing responsibility of maintaining bus stops and bus shelters to owners of abutting property. The court used precedent related to city-owned tree wells which have presented analogous issues. The New York Court of Appeals considered the issues in Vucetovic v. Epsom Downs, Inc., 2008 WL 22423808. The court held that “NYCAC § 7-210 does not impose civil liability on property owners for injuries that occur in ‘City owned’ tree wells because tree wells are not specifically mentioned in NYCAC § 7-210.” Similarly, NYCAC § 7-210 does not specifically state that abutting landowners are responsible for the maintenance of bus stops and bus shelters on sidewalks. Thus, the court concluded that abutting landowners do not have the responsibility for clearing ice and snow at bus stops or bus shelters.

However, there is another issue. In this case, someone did do some clearing of the ice and snow. There was an area of about 3 feet that was cleared. Arguably, the work that was done to try to clear the ice and snow may have actually made the condition even more hazardous. Because it is unclear as to whether it was the City or one of the abutting property owners who did some clearing of the ice and snow, there remains a triable issue of fact. Thus, the court denied the motions for summary judgment filed by the City of New York, Moy Realty, and Amsterdam Realty.

In support of their motions for summary judgment dismissal of the claims against them, MABSTOA and NYCTA argued that they are not agencies of or entities synonymous with the City of New York. Thus, they do not have a duty to maintain the bus stop or the area surrounding the bus stop. They argue that because the bus dropped Garcia off at the designated bus stop and because there was no hazard directly where she was dropped off, once Garcia stepped off the bus, their duty ceased. In support of their position, defendants MABSTOA and NYCTA point out that the plaintiff’s husband safely exited ahead of her at the exact same spot where plaintiff disembarked. The court agreed and granted the motions for summary judgement dismissal filed by MABSTOA and NYCTA.

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