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Who Is Liable For Trap Door Injuries In New York City

October 21, 2015
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Severe injuries can result when a person trips over a trap door, or falls into open cellar doors which are left open. Often people are walking on the street or exiting a restaurant and without any warning find themselves falling down a cellar. The experience is horrific and can often lead to serious personal injuries. Too often, these accidents are the results of design defects where the configuration is the equivalent of a structural defect which causes a trap for the unweary. Our Manhattan personal injury lawyers have handled thousands of premises liability cases and sustained substantial settlements and verdicts in these types of cases.

Frequently people are unaware of all the parties or entities that can be held liable for an accident involving a trap door or open cellar doors. Obviously the business who left the doors open can be held liable, but often they have inadequate insurance or go out of business. Therefore, the owners of the property, except for one to three family residential building owners, can also be held liable. Under New York City’s Administrative Code 7-210, the law imposes liability on property owners for failing to maintain sidewalks immediately outside of their premises in a reasonably safe condition. The law imposes a duty upon the owner of real property abutting any sidewalk to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. The New York Courts have recognized that this duty extends to dangerous configurations of property, which causes innocent passerbys or patrons of a restaurant or bar to fall into a cellar, where the doors were left open and the configuration is such that it obscures the open cellar doors. The New York Courts have recognized that it is a matter of simple logic that a door swinging over steps near an open cellar door may create a “hazardous and unsafe” condition and that determination should be for the finder of fact. In some cases, the door swing is insufficient which also violates New York City Administrative Code § 27-371 (h), which requires that the floor on both sides of all exit and corridor doors shall be at least equal to the width of the door leaf swing of the door. Many of these out of possession landlord cases also turn on the contents of the lease between the owner and tenant, which we obtain during discovery. A landlord who retained right to re-enter property in the lease and make repairs at tenants expense, is obligated to make repairs, and can be held liable for his failure to do so, when he has notice, constructive or actual, of said defect.

However, the Courts have also recognized that out of possession landlords can not be held liable for injuries to plaintiff who falls in open trap door where there was no evidence that the door was negligently constructed but rather was only unsafe due to being left in the open position. In such cases, liability can only be imposed upon those who negligently leave the door open and fail to provide adequate warnings in the form of cones to alert people that the doors are open.

Our dangerous property attorneys have extensive experience in evaluating potential liability and our consultations are always free.

 
The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph