The Pothole Law 1

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Q: In Brooklyn, walking along the sidewalk, I fell – at a big crack about a yard long, with a hole in the center.  The hole was about ten inches by three inches.  I am sure this hole was the cause, although there was also ice in the area and nine inches of snow.

A: New York City has a statute called the Pothole Law.  It requires that the City had been given written notice of the defect in the sidewalk prior to your accident, in order for you to prevail against the City.  Fortunately, encouraged by lawyers, an organization named the Big Apple Pothole & Sidewalk Protection Corporation has taken upon itself to furnish the City with updated pothole maps.  If your defect has been identified in the most recent of these maps, then the City has been given the written notice, and you can succeed.

As you can imagine, the City will often contend that it had not received prior written notice of precisely the defect that you describe.  In a city where English is often a second language, this can pose a perplexing question for the jury.

Luckily, the requirement that the City must receive prior written notice before liability may be imposed is strictly construed against the City.  There are no particular requirements for the specificity of the notice; the courts have ruled that the notice is sufficient if it served to bring the particular condition at issue to the attention of the authorities.  A question about the variance between your description and the map’s is for the jury.

Bear in mind that the jury can also infer that recent ice (which no one may be expected to have had time to remove) may have contributed to your fall, in addition to the sidewalk defect.  You must be prepared to testify whether you told your treating physician that your fall was caused by a hole, or by ice.

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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