A Building Near the Sidewalk

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Q: Last fall, as I was walking home from the grocery store, one of the wheels of my shopping cart went into a hole in the sidewalk, causing the cart to flip over.  I fell to the ground, and the cart fell on top of me.

The part of the sidewalk where I fell does not directly touch a building.  Rather, it lies alongside an unpaved grassy area.  Although under the ownership of the City, no separate tax lot is assigned to this area, and it has never been designated as a park.

A: In New York City, by statute, tort liability for a defective sidewalk is imposed upon the abutting property owner, rather than upon the City.  The owner of real property abutting a sidewalk must maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition – installing, constructing, reconstructing, repaving, repairing or replacing defective sidewalk flags.  The owner is liable for personal injury proximately caused by its failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. 

By statute, a sidewalk is defined as that portion of a street between the curb lines and the adjacent property lines, but not including the curb, intended for the use of pedestrians.  As long as your accident took place between the curb line and the adjacent property line of the defendant’s building, the defendant is exposed to liability.

The question is whether that unpaved area of grass, between the location of your accident and the defendant’s abutting property, immunizes the defendant from being liable.  Most likely it does not.  Your attorney will content that, although the part of the paved sidewalk where you fell does not actually touch the defendant’s property line, it is part of a larger sidewalk area that, when fairly viewed, abuts the defendant’s property for purposes of ascribing liability under the statute.  To absolve the defendant of liability here would produce a result that the Legislature never intended.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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