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Plaintiff Contends Faulty Lighting in Stairwell Caused Slip and Fall

A woman seeks damages for personal injuries sustained when she slipped and fell (slip and fall) inside parking lot staircase inside of a Center Mall. The premises are jointly owned, managed and operated by the companies who owned the parking garages/lots of the Center Mall. A third party provides certain maintenance and housekeeping services for the Queens Center Mall.

The woman alleges that on the date of the accident, it was an overcast morning with sunrise at 6:22 a.m., and that therefore there was limited natural lighting at the time of the occurrence. The weather records relied upon by moving accused parties indicate that it had rained on the two days prior to the date of the accident with wind gusts up to 53 miles per hour, however that the weather, on the date of the accident, was clear. It is further alleged that the woman was descending the steps of the stairwell when she was caused to slip and fall due to the negligently designed, negligently constructed and/or negligently maintained stairs and treads; recurring wet, slippery, slick and/or damp condition of their stairwell; and unlit or improperly lit condition of their stairwell. A New York Injury Lawyer said the record reveals that the steps are made of cement that is white in color and that there are strip/tread at the edge/nose of each step prior to descending to the next level, that are dark brown or charcoal-colored, and is contrasting in color from the concrete steps. There are also handrails on both sides of the stairs in the subject stairwell.

Furthermore, there was artificial lighting from fluorescent light fixtures that are attached to the walls and there was natural light from the windows facing the north side of the East parking structure, which are sealed shut.

The third party and, separately, the companies move to dismiss the complaint on the ground that they did not create nor did they have notice of the alleged dangerous condition at issue. The motions are opposed by the woman. A Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer said the companies further cross move for leave to amend their cross claims asserted against the third party; and the third party cross moves for summary judgment dismissing the cross claims of the companies and for summary judgment on the third party’s cross claims. The cross motions are opposed by the respective parties.

An owner of property has a duty to maintain his or her premises in a reasonably safe condition, and here that duty included providing a reasonably safe means of ingress and egress to and from the parking garage. An accused that moves for summary judgment in a slip-and-fall case has the initial burden of making a prima facie showing that it neither created the hazardous condition nor had actual or constructive notice of its existence for a sufficient length of time to discover and remedy it. A Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said to constitute constructive notice, a defect must be visible and apparent and it must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to permit the accused parties’ employees to discover and remedy it. To meet its initial burden on the issue of lack of constructive notice, the accused must offer some evidence as to when the area in question was last cleaned or inspected relative to the time when the woman slipped and fell.

The third party met the burden of establishing legitimate entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that they, neither created nor had actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous stairwell. In addition to evidence of its general daily cleaning practices, the third party submitted the affidavits of three housekeeping employees whose duties it was to clean the area where the woman slipped and fell.

The housekeeping employees aver that they had last cleaned the area at some point on the date of the accident, and did not notice any spills or liquids or anything out of the ordinary regarding the stairs. The third party also submitted evidence indicating that it had not received any prior complaints about the area prior to the woman’s slip and fall incident.

The woman has offered testimony that on prior occasions, she observed water on the stairs and lack of lighting in the staircase to impute constructive notice. However, a general awareness that a dangerous condition may be present is legally insufficient to constitute notice of the particular condition that caused the woman’s slip and fall accident.

In addition, the third party submits that shortly after the woman’s fall, a security officer arrived at the accident site while the woman was still present. The third party submits that the security officer observed that the staircase was dry and well-lit by both natural and artificial lighting and observed that the woman’s clothing were not wet. He then prepared an incident report reflecting the fact that the staircase was dry and well-lit, and was observed by another security officer while he took two (2) photographs of the unaltered area. The photographs depict a dry and lighted area.

In opposition to the third party’s legitimate showing, the woman failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether there was water or some other liquid on the stairwell where she fell, or whether the third party created or had actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition. In the absence of evidence establishing the elements of actual or constructive notice, any conclusion that such notice existed would be based upon pure speculation, which is legally insufficient to support the complainant’s cause of action. Here, since it is just as likely that the accident could have been caused by some other factor, such as a misstep or loss of balance, any determination by the trier of fact as to the cause of the accident would be based upon sheer speculation.

The woman also alleges that there were defects in the stairway (oversized treads) which, according to her expert are in violation of certain statutes and codes. Even if an expert alludes to potential defects on a stairway, the woman still must establish that the slip and fall was connected to the supposed defect, absent which summary judgment is appropriate. The third party met its burden of demonstrating the absence of notice as a matter of law, and that it did not create the condition at issue.

As owners, the accused were responsible for the lighting of the premises. In addition to the water condition, the woman alleges that the premises were inadequately lit. The accused contend that the premises were properly lit and, in any event, such alleged inadequate lighting was not the proximate cause of the accident.

It is the woman’s initial burden to show that the accused parties’ negligence was a substantial cause of the events which produced the injury. The woman’s claim that her slip and fall was caused by inadequate illumination is belied by her admission upon her examination before trial testimony that she fell as a result of slipping on water on the stair with no mention of being unable to properly see. In fact, the woman also testified at her deposition that there was adequate lighting to descend the subject stairs and to perceive any alleged water on the subject stairs. Consequently, no matter what the lighting condition, it was not a proximate cause of her slip and fall.

The accused also submitted the affidavit of the person who inspected the premises approximately one (1) hour after sunrise, in order to be consistent with the time the woman’s accident allegedly occurred. The inspection was conducted immediately following the cessation of a significant rain storm marked by high wind gusts and it was overcast at the time of the inspection. Following the inspection wherein it was revealed that the illumination levels in the staircase exceeded the illumination requirements of the 1968 New York City Building Code, the inspector opined that the lighting condition was not the proximate cause of the accident.

We are responsible for our every action and we should not make it a habit to point fingers when things go wrong. If you are being sued for the an accident that you did not intend to happen, call the office of Stephen Bilkis and Associates and consult a NY Injury Attorney or a New York Personal Injury Lawyer. If you already suffered financial downfall due to wrongful accident accusations, seek the help of NY Worker’s Compensation Attorney to help you make sure that you get what you truly deserve.

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