Legal Memorandum: City's Duty to Protect from Defective Roads

Issue: Under the laws of New York, does a city have a duty to protect travelers on a roadway from defective conditions created by an independent contractor?

Area of Law: Municipal, County and Local Law, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: City's duty to protect travelers; Defective roads; Independent contractor
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: N.Y. High. Law § 139(1), §139(2)
Date: 02/01/2001

In New York, a county has a statutory obligation to compensate persons for injuries sustained as a result of unsafe conditions on a road or highway.  The law provides that      

[w]hen, by law, a county has charge of the repair or maintenance of a road, highway, bridge or culvert, the county shall be liable for injuries to person or property and for wrongful death sustained in consequence of such road, highway, bridge or culvert being defective, out of repair, unsafe, dangerous or obstructed existing because of the negligence of the county, its officers, agents or servants.

N.Y. High. Law § 139(1) (McKinney Supp. 1997) (emphasis added).  An injured party must satisfy the prerequisites listed in the statute in order to recover in a proper case. 

A civil action may be maintained against the county to recover damages for any such injury or death; but the county shall not be liable in such action unless a notice of claim shall have been made and served in compliance with section fifty-e of the general municipal law, and unless the action is commenced in compliance with the conditions set forth in section fifty-i of the general municipal law.

Id.  (emphasis […]

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