Under New York law, owners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe, so as to avoid visitors being injured in preventable accidents. This means property owners must periodically inspect the premises and repair hazardous conditions. If they breach this duty, and a visitor is injured as a result, the injured person can seek compensation for their damages through a lawsuit. The legal theory behind this is known as premises liability.
Recently, a woman settled a premises liability lawsuit against the City of New York for a reported $600,000 after she was injured in a fall on city property. According to the woman's lawsuit, she was walking up a ramp to a boardwalk at Coney Island Beach when she had to step to the side to avoid a bicyclist. When she stepped to the side, the woman said her foot went through a hole where a wooden slat was missing in the walkway. The elderly woman fell and was reportedly seriously injured.
According to the woman's lawsuit, the city had already been notified of the problem in the roadway, and had failed to repair it or put a warning sign on it before her accident. Before settling the case, the city originally argued that the notification did not specify exactly where the hazard lay, so it should not be held liable for the woman's damages.
The case illustrates many important points about premises liability. One is that the duty of the property owner is limited. Property owners are required by law to conduct periodic inspections, and to keep the premises reasonably safe. This doesn't mean that property owners must constantly check the safety of every inch of their property for even the slightest hazard. However, if the property owner does have a warning of a hazard, such as a hole in a walkway or a spill on a supermarket floor, and does nothing to prevent foreseeable accidents that might come about as a result of that hazard, a court may find the property owner negligent and liable for damages.
Premises liability law can be very complicated, and it isn't always easy for an injured person to recover compensation through a lawsuit. However, the damages that result from the accidents in these cases can be very costly, and can include concrete financial damages like medical expenses and lost wages, as well as less concrete but very real damages like pain and suffering. An attorney with experience in premises liability law can help the injured to understand their options.
Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "SKETCHES OF COURT: City settles unsafe beach ramp case for $600K," Alba Acevedo, March 28, 2017