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NY Appellate Court Affirms “Reasonably Safe” Requirement of Property Owner in Dismissal of Premises Case

October 14, 2022

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In <em><a href="">Shuttleworth v. Saint Margaret's R.C. Church in Middle Village</a>,</em> 2022 NY Slip Op 05730, (2<sup>nd</sup> Dept. 2022), plaintiff slipped and fell on a metal drainage grating while it was raining. The defendant property owner moved for summary judgment arguing that the condition was not defective at the time of the incident. The trial court denied defendant’s motion but the Second Department overturned the decision, granting dismissal of all claims. “A property owner has a duty to maintain his or her premises in a reasonably safe condition (<em>see Basso v Miller</em>, 40 N.Y.2d 233, 241). "In order for a landowner to be liable in tort to a plaintiff who is injured as a result of a dangerous or defective condition upon the landowner's property, the plaintiff must establish, among other things, that a dangerous or defective condition actually existed" (<em>Riley v Lake Rd. Condominiums</em>, 47 A.D.3d 697, 698).

The appellate court concluded defendant satisfied the prima facie burden for summary dismissal by showing the metal drainage gate was not in violation of any applicable code, thus showing that the property owner kept the promises in a reasonably safe condition. The fact that the metal grating was wet from rain did not make it inherently dangerous. Plaintiff’s opposition failed to put any triable issues of fact and plaintiff’s expert submitted a report that the parking lot was defectively designed but failed to include any violations or industry-wide standards or accepted standards of parking lot design/construction. This case highlights an important tenet of premises liability – a wet condition on a premises is not inherently dangerous so long as it does not violate any building codes or widely accepted standards for construction. A viable defense for property owners in premises liability cases is showing you complied with all codes and statutes to protect public patrons, the location was reasonably safe and any condition that existed was not foreseeable.

Thanks to Ray Gonzalez for his contribution to this article.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="">Tom Bracken</a>.


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