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Furnishing The Occasion Is Not the Same As Causation In Premises Liability Case (NY)

December 16, 2022

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Furnishing the occasion for a trip and fall, may not lead to a party being found as the cause of the accident. Generally, if a premise is open to the public, the owner has a nondelegable duty to provide the public with a reasonably safe premise and safe means of ingress and egress. However, that duty ends at the property line, absent extenuating circumstances.

In<em> <a href="">Ellen Buehler v. Town of Pawling</a></em>, 2022 NY Slip Opp 07047 (2nd Dep’t, Dec. 14, 2022), Ms. Buehler suffered an injury when she tripped and fell a few steps outside a building owned by defendant Town of Pawling. Specifically, Ms. Buehler exited the building through the front entrance, and entered the abutting Route 292, a state owned highway. After making a right turn, and taking a few steps down the road, she tripped and fell within the roadway and sustained injuries.  Ms. Buehler alleges that the area was not properly illuminated, which caused her to fall. Defendant Town of Pawling moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability, and the motion was granted. The court stated that “generally liability for a dangerous condition on real property must be predicated upon ownership, occupancy or special use of the property.” An owner “owes no duty to warn or to protect others from a defective or dangerous condition on neighboring premises, <em>unless the owner had created or contributed to it.</em>”

Ultimately, the court ruled that defendant Town of Pawling provided a safe means of egress via the front entrance of the building, and “t<em>he fact that the plaintiff had the option of walking directly into a paved street from the end of its front entrance ramp, at most, furnished the occasion for the accident, but was not one of its causes.</em>”

As such, even though the means of egress provided may lead directly to a dangerous and defective condition, this case establishes that under the circumstances therein, leading a patron to a dangerous condition does not make one liable for the subsequent injuries sustained, absent ownership, or contribution to the condition itself.

Thanks to Chris Palmieri for his contribution to this post.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact <a href="">Tom Bracken</a>.


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