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Can A New York Property Owner Be Liable For A Plaintiff’s Unforeseen Conduct?

December 3, 2021

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In<em> <a href="">Morales v. Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Inc.,</a></em> a New York trial court recently addressed whether commercial property owners were liable for an accident caused by a plaintiff’s unforeseen conduct. Plaintiff in that case alleged that after the conclusion of his employment training at a senior citizen’s home, he attempted to leave the property, but the gate was locked. He then attempted to reenter the building, but that door was locked as well. When plaintiff could not get anyone to answer the door, he tried to leave the property by climbing a 15-foot wall and was injured when he jumped down. The defendants moved for summary judgment in the resulting personal injury lawsuit, arguing that no dangerous condition existed, plaintiff’s actions were the proximate cause of his injures, and that they could not have foreseen such conduct.

The court agreed and found that “a reasonable person in plaintiff's situation would not have climbed over an extremely high wall, instead they would have called for help or waited for assistance.” The court held that plaintiff's reckless conduct caused his injury and not the locked gate, which is “not a dangerous condition in and of itself.” The court added that the decision to climb over the wall and jump down “could not have been a natural and foreseeable consequence” of leaving the gate locked. Accordingly, the court found that the locked gate was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries and summary judgment was appropriate under the circumstances.

The <em>Morales</em> decision serves as a reminder that property owners in New York are not subject to liability for injuries or conduct that they could not reasonably foresee.

Thank you to Corey Morgenstern for his contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="">Andrew Gibbs</a> with any questions


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