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Q: Over a defect in a sidewalk, I tripped and fell.  Out here, unlike New York City, there is no code provision placing upon a landowner the duty to maintain an abutting sidewalk in good condition (and imposing tort liability upon the landowner for injuries caused by a violation of that duty).

A: Without such a code provision, liability arising from a dangerous or defective condition on a public sidewalk is instead placed on the municipality.  However, it is likely that the municipality has enacted a ‘prior written notice’ statute.  Prior written notice of the defect must have been received by the right department.  Otherwise, the municipality is not exposed – unless some exception to the written-notice requirement applies.

Usually, the municipality will try to submit the affidavit of a municipal employee – indicating, say, that he has conducted a search of the relevant records covering a period of five years prior to the date of the accident and has found no prior written notice of a defective condition corresponding to the condition that you allege.

Even if there was no prior written notice, you may well have a good shot under one of the two recognized exceptions.  One is that the municipality created the defect through an affirmative act of negligence.  The other is that the defect resulted from a special use by the municipality which conferred a special benefit on it.

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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