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Winter Storms, Slippery Sidewalks, and Successfully Pursuing a Slip-and-Fall Case in New York City

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    snow-cleared-drivewayRight now, it is still summertime in New York. Temperatures are warm, and snow and ice seem far away. Nevertheless, winter will inevitably return, and with it will come treacherous conditions, and slipping hazards on the New York City sidewalks.  An icy sidewalk case decided back in the spring of this year provides several useful pieces of knowledge about some of the legal concepts and rules that go into a New York slip-and-fall case occurring as a result of a snowy or icy sidewalk.

    Back in late January 2014, New York City experienced a blizzard. The storm dumped 11 inches of snow on the city. At around 6:45 in the evening on January 21st, Gabor went walking down 2nd Avenue in Manhattan when he slipped and fell on a sidewalk located in front of a liquor store. Gabor was seriously injured, breaking his hip as a result of his impact with the ground.

    The liquor store was only a tenant; its space was owned by a condominium. At 2:00 on the afternoon of the 21st, employees of the landlord treated the sidewalk by using a snowblower on it. By the time Gabor reached that area, though, he testified that he noticed an area of black ice on the sidewalk. According to Gabor, the area was not covered by snow and was not treated with any sort of melting or traction agent.

    At trial,  the landlord and the tenant each presented the expert opinion testimony of meteorologists in their case. The meteorologists both testified that there was a storm in progress during all relevant periods of time on the 21st. The temperatures were already below freezing by 2:00 and continued to fall throughout the afternoon. This testimony was important because New York law has what’s called the “storm in progress doctrine,” which says that a landowner does not have a duty to clear the sidewalk, “remedy a dangerous condition” (like snow and ice on a sidewalk) while a storm is in progress. Only after the storm has been over for a “reasonable time” does the landowner’s duty resume.

    In other words, the storm in progress doctrine could have resulted in a dismissal of Gabor’s case, given the weather conditions that were occurring on the afternoon and early evening of the 21st. Like many things in the law, though, the storm in progress doctrine is not absolute. The doctrine doesn’t necessarily award victory to the defendant. It simply shifts the burden of proof over to the plaintiff to show that the defendant created or made the dangerous condition on the  sidewalk worse, than it was as a result of the storm.

    The plaintiff had the necessary proof to meet that requirement and keep his case going. Gabor and his wife both testified to seeing a patch of ice in front of the liquor store. A liquor store employee testified to seeing a landlord employee using a snowblower but not to seeing that employee using any de-icing material. That proof, along with the evidence establishing the cold temperatures that afternoon, were enough to allow Gabor to go to trial and argue that the landlord either created or worsened the icy conditions on the sidewalk by using a snowblower without using any de-icer. The key to Gabor’s case, like many, was having enough evidence to counter any and all arguments that the defendants could throw at him.

    If you get hurt as a result of a slip-and-fall along a treacherously snowy or icy sidewalk, the law may provide you with the right to recover damages for the harm you suffered in that fall. Even if the facts of your case are complicated (such as a fall in the middle of an ongoing storm), don’t make the mistake of just giving up. Talk to knowledgeable New York counsel. The New York City slip-and-fall attorneys at the law offices of Jacob Oresky have diligently represented injured plaintiffs throughout the New York metro area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island. Our clients depend on us for both skillful representation and personalized attention and service. Call us to find out how we can help you.

    For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call our office at 718-993-9999. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    More Blog Posts:

    Slip And Falls On Snow And Ice: Who Is Liable?, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, Feb. 9, 2017

    Tips for Avoiding Injuries in Snowy and Icy Conditions: Tips from Attorney Jacob Oresky, New York Accident Lawyer Blog, Jan. 9, 2017

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