Legal Memorandum: Landowner's Liability for Injuries in NY

Issue: In New York, is a landowner liable for injuries caused by a defect in a public sidewalk?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Landowner's liability; Injuries caused; Defect in a public sidewalk
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 587 N.E.2d 288; 204 A.D.2d 672; 647 N.Y.S.2d 110; 612 N.Y.S.2d 236; 565 N.Y.S.2d 637; 231 A.D.2d 564; 579 N.Y.S.2d 650; 690 N.Y.S.2d 213; 261 A.D.2d 211; 633 N.Y.S.2d 213; 76 N.Y.2d 220
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

           The law is very clear in New York, and consistently stated in many cases, that a landowner will not be held liable to a pedestrian injured by a defect in a public sidewalk abutting the landowner’s premises unless the landowner created the defective condition, or caused the defect to occur because of some special use, or unless a statute or ordinance placed the obligation to maintain the sidewalk upon the landowner and expressly made the landowner liable for injures occasioned by the failure to perform the duty.  Strauss v. Tam Tam Inc., 231 A.D.2d 564, 647 N.Y.S.2d 110 (2d Dep’t 1996).  Under this standard, a landowner can only be held liable if it actually undertakes to repair the sidewalk, and performs the repairs in a negligent manner.  Quinn v. City of New York, 2000 N.Y. Slip Op. 03623 (App. Div. 2d Dep’t 2000).  The plaintiff in such a case must establish that the landowner created or caused the defective condition in the sidewalk.  Rosales v. City of New York, 221 A.D.2d 329, 633 N.Y.S.2d 213 (2d Dep’t 1995); Bloch v. Potter, 204 A.D.2d 672, 612 N.Y.S.2d 236 (2d Dep’t 1994).

Genen v. Metro-North Commuter R.R., 261 A.D.2d 211, 690 N.Y.S.2d 213 (1st Dep’t 1999), involved a claim by a pedestrian who slipped and fell on an icy platform at Metro-North’s Salisbury Mills station.  Id. at 211, 690 N.Y.S.2d at 215.  Metro-North had previously hired defendant […]

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