News from the Front: Prior Notice in Falls
Falling down outside in New York City or on Long Island raises innumerable questions about whether or not anyone may be responsible for the condition of the area in which you fell and for the injuries you sustained as a result of the fall. If you fall in NYC on a sidewalk, the adjacent property owner may be responsible for maintaining the condition of the sidewalk rather than the city itself. If you fall in a crosswalk, it may be the city or the town where you fall that is liable but there is a concept called prior notice of the condition (and its more difficult cousin with municipal owners: prior written notice) that may make it difficult to properly make a claim and recover for your injuries. Here is a simple example that I have used for years regarding liability and prior notice: You and I are talking in your living room and I get up to go into the kitchen and fall down on a banana peel that is lying on the floor and break my neck. You may or may not be liable for the consequences of my fall. If 1) you put the banana peel down yourself and created the dangerous condition that caused me to fall and didn't tell me about it as I left for the kitchen (assuming I can prove it), you are probably liable; or 2) the banana peel has been on the floor for weeks for God knows what reason and you knew or should have known that it was there (assuming I can prove it) but you failed to pick it up and remove the danger of the banana peel on the floor, you are probably liable; or 3) while we were talking the banana peel slipped off the counter and landed on the floor and you didn't have a clue it was there while I headed off to the kitchen, you have not done anything wrong and you would not be liable. I still have a broken neck but nobody did anything wrong in Scenario 3 so there would be no case. The same concept of prior awareness (and by extension the chance to correct the situation-- 'opportunity to cure') applies to slip/trip and falls in stores due to debris and to many different slip/trip and fall cases that arise in New York State. Each case requires careful analysis and discovery of the individual facts specific to the situation surrounding the fall to determine who if anyone is liable.