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Duh. You Need a Cause to Have a Claim (NY)

October 9, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Phillips-v-LSS-Leasing-Ltd-1.pdf">Phillips v LSS Leasing Ltd</a>.</em>, the plaintiff claimed she fell inside the lobby of the defendant's building in Queens, and filed a negligence based lawsuit in Queens County Supreme Court.  At the plaintiff’s deposition, when asked what caused her to fall, the plaintiff surmised that she tripped and fell on a defective part of a runner mat that was located in the lobby.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">After discovery was complete, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff could not identify the actual cause of the accident.  Queens County Supreme Court denied the defendant’s motion, but the defendant appealed the decision.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the lower court’s finding, and addressed the standard when alleging a defective property condition caused a fall. The appellate decision held that in order to impose liability upon a defendant for a plaintiff's injuries, there must be evidence showing the existence of a dangerous or defective condition, and that the defendant either created the condition or had actual or constructive notice of it and failed to remedy it within a reasonable time.  Further, in a trip-and-fall case, a plaintiff's inability to identify the cause of the fall is fatal to the cause of action, because a finding that the defendant's negligence, if any, proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries would be based on speculation.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In this case, the plaintiff, who traversed the building’s lobby practically every work day, testified that she did not see the alleged defect either before or after she fell.  The Appellate Division found that plaintiff’s claim that she tripped and fell on a defective part of a lobby mat was speculation which cannot support a negligence claim.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Applying this standard, the Appellate Division reversed the denial of summary judgment, and dismissed the lawsuit.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to George Parpas for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>

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