The Sinking Sidewalk

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Q: On a sidewalk in New York City, a fire hydrant stood close to the edge of a depressed, irregular asphalt sidewalk flag, next to the curb.  There, my foot became caught in a hole.  As I understand it, at one point, the hydrant had become broken at the base, and the City repaired the hydrant and refilled the excavation around the hydrant with blacktop.  In subsequent years, on at least four occasions, the City again performed maintenance.

A: Section 7-210 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York shifts tort liability from the City to the owner of commercial property abutting any sidewalk for personal injuries proximately caused by the owner’s failure to maintain the sidewalk abutting its premises in a reasonably safe condition – so long as you can prove negligence on the part of the owner.

In particular, you must establish that the property owner either created the hazardous condition or had actual or constructive notice of its existence for a sufficient length of time to discover and remedy it.  Your attorney is likely to argue that a span of years is certainly a sufficient length of time.

However, although section 7-210 expressly shifts tort liability to the abutting property owner for injuries proximately caused by the owner’s failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition, it does not shift tort liability for injuries proximately caused by the City’s ‘affirmative acts of negligence’, such as when the City failed to finish the job by making the sidewalk smooth and safe.  Your attorney is likely to name as defendants both the owner and the City.

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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