The Vanished Tape

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Q: I was riding my bicycle on a sidewalk that was next to a large condominium complex.  A month or two before, the City had excavated a portion of the sidewalk and backfilled it with a temporary patch, cordoning off the area with safety barrels and yellow caution tape.  By the time of my accident, the safety barrels and yellow tape had disappeared.     

A: At common law, liability for injuries sustained as a result of a dangerous condition on a public sidewalk generally is placed on the municipality – and not on the owner of the abutting land.  Nevertheless, the landowner can be liable when it actually created the dangerous condition, made negligent repairs that caused the condition, or created the dangerous condition through a special use of the sidewalk.

In addition, many cities, such as New York, have a statute or ordinance imposing liability on the abutting landowner for failing to maintain the sidewalk.

Many cities, such as New York, also have a ‘prior written notice’ law, under which the city may not be subjected to liability for injuries caused by a dangerous condition which comes within the ambit of the law unless the city has received prior written notice of the alleged defect or dangerous condition, or an exception applies.  There are two recognized exceptions: where the municipality affirmatively created the defect through an act of negligence or where a special use resulted in a special benefit to the locality.

Your attorney is likely to argue that the City affirmatively created the dangerous condition that caused your accident – that the City’s work on the sidewalk immediately left it in a condition that was dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists.

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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