Landlords’ Liability for Failure to Provide Adequate Security

When we are in our homes, whether we rent or own, we expect to feel safe and secure. Under New York law, landlords are obligated to ensure that their buildings are safe and secure and have a duty to take minimal security precautions against reasonably foreseeable criminal acts by third parties. Moreover, when a public entity (such as a housing authority) acts in a proprietary capacity as a landlord, it is held to owe the same duty as private landlords in providing security devices in a building.

The New York Court of Appeals has held that “the most rudimentary security” are locks for entrances. When a person is injured by a third party, the injured person has the burden of proving that the owner/landlord breached his or her duty by producing evidence that makes it more likely reasonable than not that the assailant was an intruder who gained access to the building through a negligently maintained entrance. The failure to provide minimal security precautions would only be the proximate cause of a person’s injuries if the assailant is an intruder as opposed to a tenant or guest of a tenant.

A landlord may have a duty to provide additional protection beyond the minimal security precautions if it is foreseeable to the landlord that enhanced security is required. This can be established by a history of assaults in the landlord’s building and/or criminal activity in the area of the building where the crime took place. Keep in mind there is no requirement that the prior criminal activity be at the exact location where the plaintiff was harmed or that it be of the same type of criminal conduct.

The attorneys of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have successfully obtained recoveries for the failure of landlords to provide adequate security and have been instrumental in litigating cases which have created these principles in New York Law. In Terrero v. New York City Housing Authority, 116 AD3d 570 (1st Dept 2014), Donald Brown, Jr., partner of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP, represented a 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by her former boyfriend. The former boyfriend gained access to the Housing Authority’s building because of a non-functioning lock. The Housing Authority argued that the landlord not be held liable since the victim knew her assailant and thus could not be considered an “intruder.” However, the Appellate Division agreed with Donald Brown, Jr.’s position that the term “intruder” includes persons who have no authority, permission or invitation to enter the premises at the time of the criminal act, regardless of whether the assailant had previously been an invitee of a tenant.

 

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of negligent security, contact the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP for a free consultation.

 

 

Injured From a Slip and Fall? What Should You Do?

In the event that you are injured from a slip and fall, for example, on an icy parking lot, or a trip and fall on a broken sidewalk, you may be entitled to compensation. It is important that if this occurs, in addition to seeking medical attention, you notify the property owner as soon as possible. Some other things to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Look to see where you fell and what may have caused your fall whether it is a defect in the floor or sidewalk, substance spilled on the floor or an object that caused you to trip;
  • Take pictures of the scene of the accident as well as the object, substance or defect that caused your fall; and
  • Check around you to see if there were any witnesses to your fall and if so, obtain their names and telephone numbers.

In New York, under the theory of premises liability, legal responsibility is placed on landowners for injuries resulting from accidents that occur on their property. However, a landowner is only liable if they had either actual or constructive notice of the condition which gave rise to the accident that caused the injury. “Actual notice” is when notice has been expressly given to the party directly or the party created the condition themself. “Constructive notice” is when a party with the exercise of reasonable care should have known about the condition. If either of these forms of notice can be shown, the landlord can be held liable for your injuries.

Slip and falls on snow and/or ice also require notice and under New York law, property owners have a “reasonable amount of time” from the time a storm stops, to clear the snow and ice off their property. If a storm is in progress, you will not be able to recover for your injuries. It is often necessary to obtain a forensic weather expert to show that a reasonable amount of time had passed since the cessation of the storm.

If you fall on private property, you have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the property owner and possibly the lessor of the property if they were responsible for maintaining the property in a safe condition. However, if you fall on the sidewalk owned by a municipality, you must file a Notice of Claim against that municipality within 90 days of your fall. Failure to timely file this document could result in you being barred from obtaining any recovery for your injuries from that municipality. In addition to filing the Notice of Claim, any lawsuit for that accident must be filed within 1 year and 90 days of your fall. In most jurisdictions, a municipality is not responsible for injuries caused by defects in sidewalks or roads unless they have received “prior written notice” of the defective condition.

It is important that you contact an attorney who has experience handling all types of slip and fall and trip and fall cases as soon as possible to ensure that these time limits do not pass and prevent you from receiving the compensation you are owed. The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP can act quickly to gather evidence to establish your case against the landowner or municipality before the evidence is gone and will do everything possible to make sure that your case is ready to be prosecuted.

 

 

 

 

Municipalities and Their Liability for Dangerous Roadways

While many motor vehicle accidents occur as a result of driver negligence, there are some roadways which in themselves are inherently dangerous and cause a great number of accidents. Road hazards that lead to motor vehicle accidents may include the following:

  • Poor maintenance of roadways such as potholes and cracks in the pavement or signs that have fallen or cannot be seen due to overgrowth of foliage;
  • Design defects such as the failure to place guardrails strategically at curved portions of roadways, improper placement of signs, not constructing proper drainage for rainwater and insufficient line markings on the road; and
  • Roads that have speed limits that are too high for the road’s design.

Municipalities have a duty to alleviate known hazardous road conditions. This duty, however, is not absolute. Governmental entities enjoy what is known as governmental immunity. What this means is that it is not enough to show that the road was in itself unsafe. It must be shown that either that the study conducted prior to the road construction/design was inadequate or that the decision it made in regard to construction/design following the study was unreasonable.

For a municipality to be liable, it must first be made aware of the dangerous condition of the roadway. One of the most common ways in which it can be shown a municipality knew or should have known of the dangerous road condition, is if there is a history of prior accidents at that specific location. However, prior accidents are only admissible at trial if facts of the prior accidents are substantially similar to the accident being litigated. It is in the judge’s discretion, which prior accidents meet this criterion and are therefore admissible as evidence of prior notice. It is for this reason it is important that you retain the services of an attorney who has experience in litigating dangerous roadway cases. Cases against municipalities for dangerous conditions on roadways can be difficult and an attorney must have a good understanding of the law.

The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP, represented a motorcyclist in a claim against a local municipality for injuries sustained as a result of an accident with another vehicle at a very dangerous section of a roadway. The motorcyclist sustained devastating injuries including a brain injury, multiple fractures to his spine, as well as nerve injuries to his arm which ultimately resulted in the amputation of his right arm. In investigating prior accidents, it was learned that just 8 months prior to our client’s accident, a near identical motorcycle accident occurred at the same location resulting in the motorcyclist’s death. Unfortunately, the motorcyclist’s estate did not realize they had a viable claim against the municipality and was never compensated for the motorcyclist’s injuries. Many drivers who are involved in accidents because of a dangerous roadway never seek compensation for their injuries because they are unaware they may have a claim. If you are involved in an accident on a dangerous roadway, you should contact the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP for a thorough evaluation of your accident so that you do not lose out on being compensated for your injuries.

Can You Receive Compensation If Your Child Is Injured At School By Another Student Or A Third Party?

When you send your children to school in the morning you expect them to be safe and protected and return home at the end of the day unharmed. In 2014, research data showed that children in the United States spend approximately 943 hours in school annually. This is a significant amount of time that our children are away from parents and in the care of school employees.

What happens if you receive that dreaded phone call from the school informing you that your child was hurt at school by another student or another third party and has been transported to the hospital? Is the school liable for the child’s injuries caused by that third party? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straight forward.

When the school takes custody of the child, the school assumes the protector role of a parent. However, under New York law, schools are not insurers of safety and cannot reasonably be expected to monitor and control all movements of every child. School authorities fail to provide adequate supervision when they have knowledge that similar conduct has caused injury in the past. Once the school has notice of dangerous conduct it has a duty to prevent that conduct from occurring. Despite this, a mere threat or a remote act of similar dangerous conduct does not meet the notice requirement.

New York courts have found that school authorities have a heightened duty to supervise younger children. In the frequently cited case, Garcia v. City of New York, 222 AD2d 192 (1st Dept 1996),a 5-year-old was permitted to go to the bathroom unsupervised and while in the bathroom was sexually assaulted by an older student in the school. The court held that even though the school had no prior notice, the school should be held liable. The court reasoned that had the school provided adequate supervision the sexual assault could have been prevented.

The following are some factors New York courts have considered when determining whether schools should be held liable for the acts of third parties:

  • History of physical assault or threats against the injured child
  • Similar prior conduct against another child
  • Remoteness of the similar prior conduct
  • Age of the injured child
  • Disparity in age between the victim child and the assailant
  • The egregious nature of the act committed
  • The length of time the child was left unsupervised

If your child has been injured by a student while in the custody of a school, it is important that you seek legal advice and guidance from an experienced attorney to ensure that your child’s injuries do not go uncompensated. The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP have over 40 years of knowledge in prosecuting schools for failing to provide adequate supervision which unfortunately resulted in a child being injured.

Was Your Child Injured by the Negligence of Someone Else?

Imagine if your child was crossing the street and suddenly struck by a vehicle. Or while driving your child to school, a car behind you fails to stop crashing into the back of the car. Or while grocery shopping your child slips on liquid spilled by a store employee causing him to fall to the ground. Childhood accidents occur far too often. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child injuries are a global public health concern causing children to endure disabilities to varying degrees. Causes of childhood injuries include, but are not limited to the following:

  • A trip and fall
  • An injury on a playground or at school
  • Automobile accidents either as a passenger or being stuck by a vehicle while walking or riding a bicycle
  • School bus accident

The medical expenses and temporary or permanent disabilities as a result of an injury can take both a financial and emotional toll on you as a parent. Although a child cannot sue to get compensation for their pain and suffering and the cost of medical expenses as a result of their injury, New York law permits a child’s parent or guardian to do so on their child’s behalf. Although in the case of a child injury, New York law “tolls” or suspends the statute of limitation for negligence and permits a law suit to be brought up until 3 years past the child’s 18th birthday, it is to the advantage of both the parent and child to seek recourse immediately. The more time that passes from the date of the accident, the more difficult it is to obtain evidence needed to prove the case including eye witness testimony, medical records for treatment of the injuries, and business or municipal records. In order to ensure that you as a parent take the proper steps to maximize your chances of recovering for your child’s pain and suffering, emotional distress and associated financial expenses it is important that you seek experienced legal advice as soon after the accident as possible. The attorneys at Spiegel, Brown & Fichera are here to help guide you through this process and recover what is owed to you.