If you are involved in a trip and fall accident, you need an expert personal injury lawyer. In New York City, owners of commercial and residential property are responsible to maintain the sidewalks that abut their property. Owners of one- or two-family homes are excluded. Pedestrians who trip over a defect in a sidewalk can sue the owner of the abutting property for damages. However, the owner has to have notice of the defect for the lawsuit to survive dismissal.
In a case involving this issue, a man hired a lawyer for a trip and fall accident he had. The man’s accident occurred when he tripped and fell while he was walking down a sidewalk in Brooklyn. As a result, the man sustained serious injuries. He started a lawsuit against the owner of the abutting commercial property.
The Trip and Fall Accident Defect
During his deposition, the plaintiff (the injured man) testified that he was looking straight ahead before he fell. He tripped and fell over a portion of the sidewalk where a chunk of it was missing. This missing chunk was approximately eight inches by four inches. His left foot stepped on the depression and twisted outward, causing him to fall straight onto the concrete. The defendants testified that there were no routine inspections for defects. They performed inspections when they were notified of specific problems. Their witness further testified that he never personally walked down the street where the plaintiff’s accident occurred. He also said that he did not go to the property unless he received a call to perform work.
The plaintiff hired a professional sidewalk expert. The expert inspected photographs taken following the accident, as well as Google images of the sidewalk. He concluded that the defect constituted a tripping hazard. This type of defective condition would take many months, if not years, to develop. The expert concluded that the defect had existed for at least six months before to the plaintiff’s accident. He said that the defect should have been repaired prior to the date of the accident. This defect would have been found if periodic inspections had been done. He further testified that images taken two and four years prior to the accident showed an attempted repair. This attempted repair, including patchwork, was insufficient to correct the defect.
Was There Notice of the Trip and Fall Defect?
Under New York law, a plaintiff can prove notice of a defect in two ways. First, they can demonstrate that the defendant had actual notice, which means they had knowledge of the specific defect. Second, a plaintiff can demonstrate that the defendant had constructive notice. This means that the defect existed for a significant amount of time in which the defendant should have discovered it. A plaintiff proves constructive notice by showing the defendant had a duty to conduct inspections but failed to do so.
In this case, the defendants failed to repair the sidewalk. It remained in a hazardous condition that was unsafe. This condition existed for at least six months, if not longer, and the defendants should have noticed it. It should have been repaired.
Were the Defendants Responsible for the Accident?
The plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The judge said that the defendants had notice of the defect and failed to fix it. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion. They proceeded to trial on the issue of damages only. At trial, the plaintiff submitted evidence that he sustained serious and permanent injuries as a result of this accident. This included lumbar herniations, cervical herniations and carpal tunnel in his left wrist. He had fusion surgery to his lumbar spine and arthroscopic surgery to his right shoulder. He also suffered from psychological trauma and reactive depression.
The jury awarded plaintiff $10,400,000, which consisted of $5,000,000 for future pain and suffering, $3,000,000 for past pain and suffering and $2,400,000 for medical expenses. Because he had a skilled attorney, he was able to secure a large verdict. If you are involved in a trip and fall accident, find a lawyer who can get you the compensation you deserve.