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A Recurring Condition ≠ Actual or Constructive Notice

March 23, 2012

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In <em>Pfeuffer v. New York City Housing Auth.</em>, the plaintiff, a police officer, slipped and fell on a staircase inside defendant's building on a wet substance he believed to be urine. He alleged that the defendant was negligent in permitting the stairway to remain in dangerous, defective, slippery, and wet condition. Plaintiff, and two fellow police officers, testified that the building was a known drug location and that the steps were generally dirty. The defendant's superintendent and the defendant's caretaker both testified that the staircase was inspected twice a day and that any liquids would be mopped up. Relying on the testimony that the debris on the stairs constituted a recurring condition, the lower court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
The First Department <a href="http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_01755.htm">reversed</a>, finding that the defendant did not create or have notice of the condition of the staircase. It emphasized that a defendant cannot be expected to patrol its staircases 24 hours a day and that, even if the problem was recurring, the defendant addressed it by cleaning up garbage and daily spills and inspecting the stairs twice a day. The Court also noted that this was not a case where the defendant negligently failed to take measures to avoid the creation of a dangerous condition.
Thanks to Gabe Darwick for his contribution to this post.

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