On May 3, 2005, a woman was walking down a flight of stairs leading from the ground floor lobby of the Chase Manhattan Plaza to the Wall Street subway station. The heel of her shoe was caught on the defective anti-skid treading which was glued to the steps of the stairway. The treading was partially covering the step and this caused her to trip and fall. When she fell, she sustained bone injury on her elbow and ankle which needed surgery, a two-week stay in the hospital and physical therapy.
The lady sued the City of New York, the New York Transit Authority which operates not only the subway but also all the stairways leading to the subway stations.
After the injured lady was deposed, the city of New York moved for a summary judgment on the case. It argued that it has no duty of care t the injured lady as it has leased the area to the Transit Authority. It is the Transit Authority, as the corporation that manages the premises of the subway station that owes the injured lady a duty of care to see that any defect in the structure of the premises be remedied by it.
The injured lady opposed the motion of the city of New York. She insisted that even if the property was leased by the Transit Authority from the City of New York, then New York had the right and duty to inspect the premises and to maintain it so that no injury can result to pedestrians who use it. Such that if an injury is sustained by anyone on the premises, the City of New York can be held liable for negligence on a significant structural or design defect that is contrary to a safety provision in law.
The trial court denied the motion of the City of New York. The order denying the motion to submit case on summary judgment is here on appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court began its opinion with the statement that a summary judgment is a drastic remedy that should be granted only when there is no doubt that no genuine issue of fact remains to be tried. The Court also mentioned that the City of New York has the burden of proving that it is entitled to a summary judgment. It has to proffer evidence that there are no more material issues of fact that needs to be tried.
The Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the City’s motion for summary judgment. The flight of stairs leading to the subway is not under the control, supervision and possession of the City anymore when the trip and fall occurred. In a long line of cases since 1953 when the Transit Authority leased the premises from the City of New York, the Court has consistently held that the stairs leading to the subway are necessary for the operation of the subway station and is part of the leased property over which the City has relinquished control and possession. Thus, the City has no duty whatsoever to the plaintiff, and therefore, it cannot be held liable for the trip and fall that occurred there.
The Supreme Court granted the motion of the City of New York for summary judgment. The complaint and cross-claims against the City of New York are dismissed. But the remainder of the action against the Transit authority and the other defendants is remanded for further trial.
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