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Specificity and Clarity Required in Big Apple Maps

March 24, 2009

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In 1982, plaintiffs' tort lawyers created Big Apple Pothole & Sidewalk Protection Committee to keep track of sidewalk defects in the five boroughs. The company periodically files "Big Apple maps" with the City of New York in an attempt to provide the city with the legally required notice of sidewalk, curb and crosswalk defects necessary to sustain negligence claims.
In two recent cases that reached the Court of Appeals, the Court ruled that the symbols on Big Apple maps must be clear in their representation of the defect and the plaintiff's case must show that the fall was caused by that particular defect.
In D'Onofrio v. City of New York, the symbol of a raised sidewalk was clear, but the plaintiff claimed that he fell on a grate or broken concrete. Since there was no evidence of an uneven sidewalk on the map, the Court rejected the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff and dismissed the case as a matter of law.
In the companion case of Shaperonovitch v. City of New York, the plaintiff alleged a fall on a raised sidewalk. The Court found the symbol at that location was ambiguous and did not indicate an elevation. The Court rejected the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
Thanks to Robin Green for her contribution to this post.
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