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At Least the City is Still Responsible for Fire Hydrants!

July 16, 2012

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In <em>Burwell v City of New York</em>, the plaintiff was allegedly injured when her car hit the protruding base of a fire hydrant as she drove over a sidewalk while attempting to enter the parking lot of a commercial premises.  Plaintiff sued the property owners, tenant and the City of New York alleging that defendants negligently maintained the curb, sidewalk, and hydrant in violation of Administrative Code of the City of New York §§ 7-210 and 19-152.  Specifically, plaintiff alleged that defendants negligently permitted the curb of the sidewalk to deteriorate to such an extent that it provided no barrier between the sidewalk flagstone and the roadway, and that they permitted the broken hydrant to obstruct the normal flow of traffic into and out of the parking lot. 
The property owners and tenant moved for summary judgment arguing that (1) the alleged deterioration of the curb was not a proximate cause of the accident; and (2) they had no duty to maintain or repair the hydrant.  The lower court denied the motion, but the Second Department reversed and dismissed the case as against the property owners and tenant.  The Second Department affirmed the denial of the City’s summary judgment motion on the basis that there may have been notice of the defective hydrant by virtue of a notation in a Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Corporation Map. 
This case is one of those rare instances where the City still faced liability while the adjacent landowners got out.  We note, however, that the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Corporation has stopped producing their maps, and so notice against the City is harder for a plaintiff to prove in more recent sidewalk accident cases.
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