October 30, 2014

Appeals Court Says Jury Should Decide Key Point in Slip And Fall Case

By Jonathan Damashek

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New York premises liability lawyerA slip and fall accident case handled by Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek was recently featured on the front page of the New York Law Journal.

The case, Rodriguez v. Woods, centers on an icy sidewalk where Francisca Rodriguez slipped and fell and was injured in December 2008. Ms. Rodriguez claimed ice on the sidewalk that formed after a snowfall was one inch thick and appeared to have been there for several days. She said the city or the property owners should have cleared the ice before she fell.

Her lawsuit sought damages from the city and private landowners Willie and Lana Woods.

The Woods responded that they had no obligation to clear ice and snow from the sidewalk, and the city said it had not had sufficient time to clear the ice. The city also disputed the suggestion by an expert, meteorologist George Wright, who submitted an affidavit on behalf of Rodriguez “showing it had snowed four days prior to the incident and the ice formed at least two days prior to her injury,” New York Law Journal says.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Geoffrey Wright previously dismissed the lawsuit in March 2013, saying there is no specific law requiring the property owners to clear ice from sidewalks abutting their property and that the city’s taking up to three days to clear the snowfall was “within the definition of reasonableness.”

The Manhattan Appellate Division on Oct. 14 overturned the earlier decision, saying the city had no expert to support its dispute of Rodriguez’s timeline and that the question of the length of time that was reasonable for clearing the ice should be left to a jury.

This case is illustrative of the central point of premises liability law, which is that a property owner owes a duty of safety to visitors. This includes clearing snow and any ice that forms in a reasonable amount of time after a snowfall has ended.

In reviving this lawsuit, the appellate court indicated that a New York jury should settle the question of what constitutes a reasonable amount of time to clear a sidewalk after a snowfall.

The city is yet to decide whether to appeal, New York Law Journal says.

The attorneys of Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek are pleased to see this case reinstated and wholeheartedly agree that what is a “reasonable” amount of time to clear a potential slip-and-fall hazard should be left to a jury.