Category: Premise Liability

Update on Sidewalk Safety & Injury Liability in New York

With the return of winter weather, the New York City Department of Buildings issued a reminder last week to all property owners, landlords and businesses to clear sidewalks adjacent to their property of snow and ice. NYC Administrative Code 16-123 requires that property owners and landlords who are in charge of any building or lot in the city next to a paved sidewalk remove snow, ice, dirt, fallen leaves, branches and any other debris from the sidewalk within four hours of its appearance. If removal is unsafe or will cause damage to the pavement, the owner is still expected to lay sand, sawdust or another appropriate material down and clean the sidewalk as soon as weather permits.

Unfortunately, each year throughout the five boroughs,
thousands of pedestrians are injured when they fall on slippery sidewalks, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, paralysis,
spinal injuries, broken bones, fractures and damage
to nerves and cartilage – especially in vulnerable joints
like knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders.

Unfortunately, each year throughout the five boroughs, thousands of pedestrians are injured when they fall on slippery sidewalks, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, spinal injuries, broken bones, fractures and damage to nerves and cartilage – especially in vulnerable joints like knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders. While many of these instances can be attributed to a loss of balance or footing, they can also be caused by the failure of property owners or managers to take necessary safety measures. In addition to the temporary hazards caused by weather, pedestrians are also at risk of injury from an even more common cause of slip and fall accidents: sidewalk defects including cracks, uneven planes, patchwork repairs, missing sections, improper slopes and exposed tree roots as well as hardware defects like poorly installed grates. According to TRIP, a transportation research group based in Washington DC, New York City also has the 6th worst pothole problem of all cities in the United States.

“…In 2003 responsibility for sidewalk injury liability shifted
from the city to property owners. Property owners and landlords must now be able to demonstrate that sidewalks adjoining their premises as well as pedestrian ramps and parking lots are regularly inspected, well-maintained and free of defects.”

While accidents cannot always be prevented, The Department of Transportation has a list of specifications that must be followed by property owners in order to provide reasonably safe sidewalk conditions. Duties include removal of snow and ice, upkeep, fixing broken, uneven and cracked pavement and tending to raised grating that could cause a pedestrian to fall. Previously, the City of New York was responsible for maintaining sidewalks but in 2003 responsibility for sidewalk injury liability shifted from the city to property owners. Property owners and landlords must now be able to demonstrate that sidewalks adjoining their premises as well as pedestrian ramps and parking lots are regularly inspected, well-maintained and free of defects. They must “install, construct, repave, reconstruct or repair” sidewalks to New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications – at their own expense. This change has made it easier for injured individuals to seek compensation for medical costs and other expenses associated with a slip and fall injury when negligence is involved. While the DOT Sidewalk Repair Program replaces more than 2 million square feet of sidewalk each year, they now focus most of this work on city-owned property and only address about 1% of the city’s total sidewalk area each year. DOT relies on property owners to maintain the rest of the sidewalks.

Prior to 2003, in order to file a claim against the city, an individual was required to give actual notice of the defect: written proof that the property owner knew of the condition for a sufficient enough time to have fixed it.

Now only constructive notice is required: proof that the condition existed long enough for the property owner to be aware of it. Property owners are also now required to purchase insurance for personal injury and property damage resulting from improper sidewalk maintenance.

when injury could have been prevented by proper maintenance, the victim may receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with the incident.

Of course, not all slip and fall accidents are a result of property owner negligence, but when injury could have been prevented by proper maintenance, the victim may receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with the incident. Anyone who suffers a trip and fall due to poor maintenance by a property owner should get prompt medical assistance and report what caused the fall immediately. Waiting for too long often means there are no witnesses and no documentation of treatment sought at the time of the accident.

If you or someone you know has suffered from injuries due to unsafe conditions on sidewalks and parking lots, the experienced New York attorneys at Okun, Oddo & Babat can help you. Don’t hesitate to contact us or call us at 212.642.0950 to discuss your case.

Additional Resource:

Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd. copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

Potential Dangers and Forms of Negligence on Commercial Properties

Shopping malls are designed to accommodate a large population of people moving incrowds through stores, hallways and up stairs and elevators. With all of this activity, occasional accidents are bound to occur.
There are a variety of possible hazards that can endanger mall visitors, especially if the staff and management are not fulfilling their duty to keep the premises safe. 15% of injuries in malls and shopping centers are caused by slip and fall accidents. While they can be attributed to the patron simply losing their balance, these incidents can also be caused by: Continue reading “Potential Dangers and Forms of Negligence on Commercial Properties”

Residential and Commercial Landlord Negligence

Everyone has a right to live and work in a safe environment and for over 2 millionrenters in New York City much of the responsibility for adequate conditions lies with a landlord or property manager. Tenants and guests of both residential and commercial premises are protected by several state and New York City laws, from rent regulations to the Attorney General’s Tenants’ Rights Guide. These laws mandate that property must be fit to live in with no conditions that threaten tenants’ health or safety Continue reading “Residential and Commercial Landlord Negligence”

Property Owner’s Responsibility For Slips & Falls

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every 8 seconds someone is hurt by a slip and fall. The odds that you will have a slip and fall accident requiring medical attention in a given year are 1 in 35. Injuries sustained from this type of accident can range from minor scrapes and bruises to broken bones, fractures, head and spinal cord trauma or even death.

The CDC reports that falls account for nearly 8 million visits to the emergency room each year, or 33.3% of all visits. In 2011, falls were the number one cause of non-fatal injuries. Of these incidents, approximately 1 million involved slipping. Slips are often caused by insufficient friction between the ground and a person’s shoes as a result of a slick floor, spill or poor treading. A fall involves a complete loss of balance, sometimes from a platform higher than ground level.

In the United States, there are more than 21,000 fatalities each year as a result of slip and fall accidents. While injuries are equal among men and women, studies show that men are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents.

Seniors and children are more likely to be involved in a slip and fall accident. 40% of all nursing home admissions are a result of care needed after a fall, and approximately 2 million Americans over 65 are treated in emergency rooms annually after falling. They are the 6th leading cause of death among people over 70, with nearly 1,800 older Americans succumbing to injuries each year.

Slips & Falls in the Workplace
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that slips and falls are consistently in the top 4 causes of death in workplaces and in 2011 resulted in 58% of disabling injuries. Employees were forced to miss more than 30 days of work in 25% of these cases. Though slips and falls are not the most common cause of workplace fatalities, they are the cause of most work-related time off. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Organization, they cost employers an estimated $70 billion in compensation costs each year.

Workplace accidents are not the only instances where another party may be liable for damages. With any slip and fall that occurs in a public space such as a restaurant, store, hotel, etc. where the establishment has not provided safe conditions, a lawsuit may be pursued. Negligence in these cases includes slick or uneven floors, obstacles scattered in walking areas, poor lighting and failure to adequately remove hazards caused by weather.

When slips and falls are caused by a property owner’s failure to provide a safe environment for pedestrians or during performance at work, the victim should pursue compensation for any medical bills incurred. Wherever they happen, slips and falls can result in missed work, disability, the need for long-term care and pain and suffering damages that should be recovered.

Contact Okun, Oddo & Babat to arrange an appointment with an experienced New York attorney to review the details of your case.

Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd.
copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

New York City Elevator Safety

In a highly-publicized incident in 2012, a New York City woman was fatally injured and five maintenance workers were fired after several security precautions were not followed during service on an elevator. This put the issue of elevator safety more prominently in the headlines and led to closer examination of the frequency and causes of such incidents state and nationwide.

Elevator accidents are very rare, so when one occurs there is a great deal of cause investigation and focus on future prevention.

With about 900,000 elevators in the United States used by 18 billion passengers each year, an average of 27 die in elevator accidents and 17,000 are injured according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For most New York City residents and workers, elevators are a necessary part of daily life with approximately 600,000 elevators and 2,000 escalators in the five boroughs. While elevators are generally a safe way to get from A to B, New York City has the highest number of individuals in the nation injured or killed while using elevators each year.

The most common cause of elevator accidents is poor maintenance resulting in open shafts, uneven platforms, faulty wiring or pulley systems, malfunctioning doors and other mechanical failures. More often than not, human error is a factor. Most incidents of injury or death caused by elevators could have been prevented by scheduled maintenance and standard safety measures.

Under the New York Premises Liability Law and per ASME, it is required that every elevator be inspected by a certified third party annually. Building owners are responsible for maintaining security standards and most have a contract with the manufacturer, installer or a maintenance company to meet these requirements. In certain cases of injury or fatality, accountability for damages may rest with one or more of these individuals or groups if they fail to address dangerous conditions.

Anyone involved in an elevator accident where negligence is a factor should seek to identify the responsible parties to receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income. Contact Okun, Oddo & Babat for a consultation.

Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd.
copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

Playground and Amusement Park Injuries

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of emergency department visits for playground injuries than any other age group and most of these injuries occur at school. The majority of home-related injuries occur on swing sets. A large majority of nonfatal injuries occur on public playground equipment as a result of physical hazards and behavioral elements such as supervision and age-appropriate design. Low income areas had higher incidence of injuries as a result of lower maintenance on equipment.  Falls to the surface or on equipment account for a large percentage of head injuries, while broken bones, and surgeries are in many cases a result. In some cases these unfortunate accidents occur on school grounds and the school may be liable for negligence as a result of faulty equipment or lack of supervision.

In recent years playground equipment guidelines and standards
have been developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials. However, accidents, injuries and loss of life continues to happen. Amusement and Theme Park related injuries
are often more serious and these mishaps in many cases result in death.

Operators of amusement parks or playgrounds in New York State are required to provide reasonably safe conditions for protection and are responsible for any negligence in equipment operation and maintenance. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2006 approximately 8,800 people were injured on amusement park rides. The most common of these injuries include head, neck and back injuries, broken bones, lacerations and traumatic brain injuries due to rapid speeds and detached objects hitting a rider’s head. The CPSC reports that the leading number of these injuries occur due to mechanical failure, improper operation and passenger misuse and failure to follow instruction.

If you believe you may have grounds to file a lawsuit involving a playground accident at public or private park, amusement park or playground on or off school premises, contact us by email or by phone at  212-642-0950 for a courtesy evaluation. An Okun, Oddo & Babat injury attorney will evaluate your case and aggressively persue the maximum compensation.

Will Proposed New York Scaffold Law Amendment Compromise Construction Worker Safety?

According to the New York Labor Law sections 240 and 241 also known as the Scaffold Law, contractors and building owners are required to provide the proper safety equipment and training for workers performing duties at elevated heights. Failure to do so, if proven, means they can be held 100% liable for damages and injuries to workers as a result. Peter Herr gives a detailed report on the Politicsny website regarding New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Joe Morelle’s move toward legislation to amend the bill, which would limit the amount of liability that building owners and contractors’ insurance would have to pay out. The article states that “Proponents of the amendment say this will lower insurance rates; opponents claim that by allowing owners and contractors this ability to limit liability, it will also allow them to take safety shortcuts in the interest of cost savings on job sites.” The article sites examples of several construction accident lawsuits that have been provided to illustrate the negative effects of the law. Argument against the change in the law is that New York construction workers could clearly be at higher risk to be involved in construction accidents. Herr reports that “The total liability element is the meat of the law and is what drives owners to demand high safety standards from the contractors they chose. ”

Call us at 212-642-0950 or email us
to speak to one of our experienced construction accident attorneys.

Okun, Oddo & Babat is a New York City law firm specializing in the representation of victims who have suffered serious personal injuries. We represent accident victims in all areas of personal injury arising out of automobile accidents, medical malpractice, hospital negligence, defective products and drugs, premises liability, construction site accidents and wrongful death. We handle civil litigation and trials in both the State and Federal Courts. We also offer high quality representation in all types of criminal and commercial matters.

Property Accidents Due to Negligence

Property owners have a legal obligation to keep their property safe and to warn visitors of potential hazards. In such cases where an accident is sustained on someone’s property due to negligence or a wrongful act, there are a number of questions that arise. Premises liability cases can be complex and victims typically need to learn about their legal rights and how to go about filing an injury claim. Incidents may involve workplace and construction site injuries, playground and amusements park accidents, school injuries, personal property slips and falls, restaurant, catering, parking lot or shopping mall mishaps. Incidents may also involve injuries at a camp or nursing home slips and falls. Victims of premises liability cases can incur many serious injuries including broken bones, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, accidental drowning and in some cases, wrongful death. Owning property means taking responsibility for the safety of the people you invite onto your property. Whether you were injured at a retail store or any other commercial, residential or other premises, the property owner may be liable for your injuries.

It is most important that if you or someone you care about is involved in an injury on another person’s property that you keep careful and diligent records, and photos if possible, involving the scene of the injury and circumstances of the property which factored into the incident. Note any injuries, medical treatment or medications administered as well as the names of any individuals involved. In any situation, it’s best to consult with an attorney as quickly as possible to gain a full understanding of your legal rights and potential entitlement to compensation.
We can help you understand the statue of limitations involving your case, which varies from state-to-state, file charges, collect evidence and speak with the property owner’s insurance company and/or attorney. It is our job to give you a full understanding of steps involved in filing a premises liability case and to work on your behalf to recover appropriate compensation for injuries, pain, suffering, medical expenses or lost wages. The attorneys at Okun, Oddo and Babat are trained in the area of personal injury law. Contact us for a consultation.

Mold In Your New York City Apartment

What is Mold?
Molds produce tiny, invisible spores that float around until they find an environment in which they can grow. There are over one hundred thousand varieties of mold, with over 1,000 common in this country, and their spores are flying around all the time. Many molds are helpful (medicines and cheeses), many harmless, but some are dangerous to humans.

Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.

Where is mold usually found in New York City apartments?
Molds can grow on paper, wood, sheet rock / drywall, carpet, plaster, or any other surface that is kept wet or damp. The growths are most common in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, near chronic leaking areas (such as leaking risers and radiators, or roof leaks), and in newer buildings, in air ducts.

What causes mold to grow?
Mold grows in areas that are kept wet or moist, so simply cleaning up mold is insufficient if there continues to be a water leak, water build-up (such as after a flood), moisture build-up, or standing water (as in a basement). When mold spores land on a consistently wet surface, they then grow into the musty, mildewy-smelling orange or black yuck that is instantly recognizable as mold.  Mold growths are often a problem after a flood – either from sewage, a bad leak or very wet weather conditions.

When does mold become harmful to health?
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the NYC Department of Health, most common molds that grow in small quantities are harmless for healthy people but obvious mold growths in homes or work places should be cleaned up immediately. Some types of mold  can be very harmful to humans, especially young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Even healthy people can develop severe illnesses and allergies when exposed to large mold growths. Illnesses related to mold growth include allergic reactions (fever, itching, rashes, eye problems, breathing difficulties, etc), asthma, and severe respiratory problems. The Stachybotrys chartarum mold is particularly harmful, though not common but is perfectly suited to apartment buildings and houses with chronic leaks or floods. This greenish-black mold grows on substances with high cellulose content such as wall board, sheet rock, and other common building materials. Toxic chemicals released by the mold can, according to some medical experts, cause very serious lung problems. In large quantities, according to some sources, mold mycotoxins can induce allergies and chronic, severe health problems in previously healthy people.

Is it a violation for there to be mold in my apartment?
The city’s housing department will record mold growths as “C” class, or immediately hazardous violations. However, tenants continue to report that both the health and the housing departments are not very effective in forcing resistant landlords to both clean up mold growths and to keep the growth away. Tenants in some of New York City’s newer buildings have had severe mold problems either because of carelessly maintained air conditioning/heating duct work or because of uncorrected leaks.

What should be done when mold is found in my apartment?
Mold should be cleaned up, according to the NYC Deptartment of Health, with a mild bleach and water solution by a person who is not allergic or sensitive to the mold. Young children, especially babies, older people, pregnant women and anyone with asthma or other allergic or lung condition should not be involved in or around the mold or the clean up. The cleaning cloths should be discarded, and any thing that had the mold growing on it, such as carpets, curtains, furniture, paper, wall paper, plaster or sheet rock should also be discarded. The city’s health department has clear guidelines for cleaning up mold growths which should be followed. If your landlord is doing the cleanup, make sure his workers follow the guidelines. Obviously, very large growths should be handled by a trained contractor hired by the landlord.

What is my landlord’s responsibility to eliminate mold in my apartment?
Your landlord is responsible for properly cleaning up the mold and for repairing any conditions that are keeping the condition in your apartment wet. The source of the water build-up may have been a flood that was never cleaned up after (with standing water), a leaky pipe – including pipes between the walls, or pipes in adjacent apartments, roof leaks, or leaks coming from the outside walls in your building (which require pointing), or other causes. Repairing these problems are all your landlord’s responsibility, no matter what they cost.

Before any cleaning work is done the source of the water or moisture build-up has to be stopped. If there is a plumbing leak coming from the apartment above you and causing the drywall on your ceiling to develop mold, cleaning the mold in your apartment will not solve the problem, as the mold will soon re-emerge. Even replacing that section of drywall will be inadequate if the leak is not fixed, as the new drywall will soon become wet.

What if my landlord fails to clean up the mold?
Report the mold problem in your apartment or common building area to the New York City Department of Health. You should also report mold and any chronic leaks from pipes, improperly working drains, or roof leaks, to the New York City Department Of Housing, Preservation and Development. Be sure to date the letter, keep a copy and send it to the landlord either by certified mail or with a receipt of mailing.

If the landlord fails to act promptly, contact Okun, Oddo & Babat at 212-642-0950 to discuss further action.

Source: Metropolitan Council on Housing