New York Insurance Law Blog

NYC Sidewalk Law

On behalf of Jeffrey Samel & Partners posted in Injuries on Friday, March 6, 2015.

In 2003, the New York City Council enacted §7-210 of the New York City Administrative Code. Under that statutory scheme, liability to those injured as a result of a defective public sidewalk generally shifted from the City to the abutting landowner. However, not all types of landowners are subject to this shifting of liability.

Pursuant to NYC Administrative Code §7-210(b)(i) (ii), an owner of a one-two-or three-family residential premises that is owner-occupied and is used exclusively for residential purposes does not have a statutory duty to maintain public sidewalks abutting that property. In other words, the owner of a one, two or three family home that the owner actually occupies and that does not contain a business (such as a professional office or retail establishment), would not be responsible for sidewalk defects or for the presence of snow, ice or other debris.

In such instances, liability for injuries sustained as a result of a dangerous condition of the public sidewalk remains with the municipality and does not shift to the owner of the abutting property. Exceptions to this rule include when the landowner actually created the dangerous condition, made negligent repairs thereby causing the condition, created the condition through a special use of the sidewalk, or violated a statute or ordinance imposing liability on the abutting landowner for failing to maintain the sidewalk.

Very often, plaintiffs seek to commence a lawsuit after the somewhat brief statute of limitations for claims against the municipality has expired, or when prior actual written notice cannot be proven against the City, leaving plaintiff with little choice but to seek to establish liability on the part of the abutting landowner. The most prevalent claims that attempt to place liability on an abutting landowner of a one, two or three family home include claims of a defect located on the portion of the sidewalk over which the landowner’s driveway (i.e. a “special use”) crosses and where it is claimed that the landowner made “ineffective repairs of a defect (or incomplete removal of snow or ice) that allegedly resulted in a more dangerous condition.

Most of the allegations faced by landowners for incidents that occurred on abutting sidewalks have been well litigated. There are few “gray areas” remaining or issues of first impression. Thorough legal research by knowledgeable counsel can almost always uncover legal decisions in cases involving similar facts in which the issue of liability has already been determined by the appellate courts.