Landowner Liability For Sidewalk Injuries

January 22, 2020

In New York, liability for injuries sustained as a result of the negligent maintenance of, or the existence of dangerous and defective conditions to, a public sidewalk generally is placed on the municipality and not the abutting landowner. See, e.g., Roark v. Hunting, 24 N.Y.2d 470 (1969). There are, however, circumstances under which this general rule is inapplicable and the abutting landowner can be held liable. For example, liability to abutting landowners generally can be imposed where the sidewalk was constructed in a special manner for the benefit of the abutting owner, see, e.g., Clifford v. Dam, 81 N.Y. 52 (1880), and where the abutting landowner affirmatively caused the defect or negligently constructed or repaired the sidewalk, see, e.g., Colson v. Wood Realty Co., 39 A.D.2d 511 (3d Dep’t 1972).

In addition, an abutting landowner can face liability where a local ordinance or statute specifically charges it with a duty to maintain and repair the sidewalk and imposes liability for injuries resulting from the breach of that duty, as confirmed by the New York Court of Appeals in Hausser v. Giunta, 88 N.Y.2d 449 (1996).

Anthony S. Guardino, a partner with the law firm of Farrell Fritz, P.C., practices in the areas of land use, zoning, and environmental law. Resident in the firm’s office in Hauppauge, Long Island, he can be reached at aguardino@farrellfritz.com.

Reprinted with permission from New York Law Journal, Wednesday, January 22, 2020, Vol 263 – No. 14.

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