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Plaintiff Sues for Slip and Fall Accident on Stairs, Appellate Court Denies Defendant’s Summary Judgement Motion


On 1 January 2006 at approximately 5:30 pm at the defendant’s home, a slip and fallaccident on a stairs has occurred. Thus, a personal injury action arose.

The plaintiff is the father of the defendant and on the date of the incident the plaintiff was watching the defendants’ children.

Motion by defendants for an Order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants, dismissing plaintiff’s complaint, on the basis that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie cause of negligence as and against said defendants, is determined as hereinafter provided.

A New York Injury Lawyer said the rule in motions for summary judgment is that: “It is well established that a party moving for summary judgment must make a prima facie showing of entitlement as a matter of law, offering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy and should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a triable issue, but once a prima facie showing has been made, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish material issues of fact which require a trial of the action.

The defendants contend that the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s alleged accident was that the handrail on the stairs in issue ended prior to the stairs where the fall occurred. A Manhattan Personal Injury Lawyer said the defective, dangerous and hazardous conditions on the steps and or stairway consisted of treads that are not level and true, risers heights that vary, tread widths that are less than the minimum mandated by the building code, an inappropriately located handrail and inadequate lighting.

The specific dangerous and defective conditions, as enunciated by plaintiff’s professional engineer are as follows: hazardous conditions were created and allowed to remain in place; the subject stairway did not conform to the requirements of the New York State Building Code or that it was not arranged for safe ascent and descent; treads were not level and true, riser heights vary by more than that permitted by the building code, tread widths are less than the minimum mandated by the building code, tread widths are less than the minimum mandated by the building code, the handrail is inappropriately located and illuminated at the subject stairway is less than that needed for sage travel; there was negligence on the part of the building owners, the building management and those stairs.

Under the law, stairs’ minimum widths of treads shall be nine inches plus 1 1/8 inches nosing for closed riser, type, or nine inches for open riser type.

Here, the subject stairway was measured and found to be uniform in width at 10 inches including the nosings. The stairway is a closed type and as such, the stair treads do not meet the requirements in terms of tread widths, a condition which causes the actual area upon which a person can stand/walk to be narrow and of less than adequate footing.

On the other hand, the law provides that treads shall be level and all other than winder treads shall be uniform in width, with no variation exceeding one-eighth inch in any one run of stairs. At the time of the inspection, he noted that the treads were not set level and true. A Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer said he observed, and verified through use of a torpedo level, that the steps sloped forward in the direction of descent, a condition which would cause a pedestrian to be off balance while on the subject stairway. Clearly, the treads at the subject stairway do not meet the code requirements as regards being level and true.

Meanwhile, the law dictates that there shall be no variation exceeding one-eighth inch in any one run of stairs. The engineer’s measurements of the riser heights indicated that the risers varied from 6 3/4 inches at a minimum to more than 7 1/2 inches at a maximum. The differential between these riser heights is six (6) times the code allowable variance, clearly a violation of the Building Code and a hazardous condition for pedestrians. In addition to the above, he noted that the runner atop the treads at the subject stairway created a condition wherein the top of the runner projected a full half inch higher in elevation that the wood base at the stairway treads. This finding is clearly a violation of the code and has created an obvious unsafe condition as person on the stairway is liable to step edge of the carpet and turn an ankle or otherwise be thrown off balance.

Further, clearance between handrail and supporting wall shall be not less that 11/2 inches. The measurement clearance between the handrail and the wall was 1 1/8 inches. This is less than the mandated minimum dimension and will result in difficulty, if not making it impossible, to grasp the handrail.

Treads of stairs shall be lighted by either natural or artificial light of sufficient intensity to allow safe ascent and descent. At the time of the engineer’s inspection, he noted that there were no light fixtures over the stairway or in the immediate vicinity of the stairway. The closest light fixture was noted to be at the ceiling of the room at the top of the stairway, remote to the stairway and behind persons descending the stairway thus creating shadows and dark areas in front of the person descending the stairway and leaving the area in darkness. Clearly, owing to the poor and remote location of the light fixture a person at the stairway would block the rays from the light with his/her body thus causing shadows and dark areas at the stairs further diminishing the available lighting.

Here, actual notice is claimed in that the defendants, themselves or employees, agents and/or servants of the defendant, including but not limited to members of their maintenance staff, were aware of the dangerous and defective conditions, claimed prior to the accident occurring.

Constructive notice is claimed in that the defendants, themselves should have been aware through reasonable inspections and normal maintenance of the defective and hazardous conditions claimed. To be supplemented, if necessary, after discovery is completed.”

The Court observes that the plaintiff, amongst other things, testified as to the lighting conditions on the stairs at the plaintiff’s deposition.

After examining the issue of a slip and fall accident, the Court stated that: “A plaintiff in a slip-and-fall case must demonstrate the existence of a dangerous condition and that the defendant created the condition or had actual or constructive notice of it. Here, the evidence presented by the plaintiff was insufficient to establish a prima facie case of negligence against the defendants. The plaintiff failed to present evidence to support a common law negligence claim that a dangerous condition existed on the subject stairway. Further, she did not establish that the handrail on the subject stairway violated any applicable provision of the Building Code of the City of New York.

In opposition to the requested relief, the plaintiff submits the affidavit of the private engineer to substantiate those contentions set forth in the plaintiffs Verified Bill of Particulars as to the alleged violations of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.

The defendant offers no submission related to the plaintiffs contentions regarding the alleged violations. As such, the defendants’ application for an Order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants dismissing plaintiff’s complaint, on the basis that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie cause of negligence as and against said defendants, is denied.

Slip and Fall Accidents are without consequences. When one is found to be responsible for the accident, liability arises. In such a case, a Nassau County Personal Injury Lawyer is needed to pursue the case before courts of law. For a free consultation, you may contact a Nassau County Slip and Fall Lawyer from Stephen Bilkis & Associat

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