In 2003, the New York City Council passed section 7-210 of the administrative code which shifted liability for sidewalk trip and fall from the city to the abutting landowner in most cases. Being that law says “sidewalk,” a court ultimately found that accidents that take place on the curb are not considered the sidewalk, and are thus not the responsibility of the landowner, but remain the responsibility of the city.
Between the sidewalk and the curb
One type of an accident had eluded a definitive answer until 2009. That is when the case of Miyoko Takebe came to court. Mr. Takebe was injured after he tripped on an area right between the sidewalk and the curb. Some would call this the sidewalk, and thus the responsibility of the landowner, and some would call it the curb, and thus the responsibility of the city. Some call it a “joint” and no one, it seemed, really had the exact answer. The presiding judge cleverly wrote the following:
“Everybody involved in this case agrees as to exactly where on Manhattan’s West 89th Street plaintiff, Miyoko Takebe, allegedly tripped and fell. In fact, the location of the roughly eight-inch-wide triangular break in the concrete has been so clearly identified through photographs and deposition testimony that a global positioning system could probably zero in on it with pinpoint accuracy. The problem is that nobody can agree on a fundamental question: Is the fateful spot on the sidewalk or is it on the curb?
It’s safe to say that millions of New Yorkers walk the streets of this city everyday with barely a thought as to where the sidewalk ends and the curb begins. But for those of us who deal with personal injury cases arising from sidewalk falls either of the “trip” or “slip” variety the distinction is of critical importance.”
Where does the sidewalk end and the curb begin?
The judge’s decision, which is truly a joy to read, goes on to note that there is no clear definition of where the sidewalk ends, and where the curb begins. Being that both sides (city and landowner) wanted to get out of the case and point the finger at the other, the judge decided that this conundrum should be left to a jury. And there you have it – for injuries sustained in a trip and fall on a New York City sidewalk, whether the accident took place on the sidewalk or the curb is not a legal question to be determined by a judge pre-trial, but rather a question of fact to be determined by a jury of ones peers. For any sidewalk trip and fall accident, it is very important to retain a lawyer who is experienced in sidewalk injury cases. Only an experienced sidewalk trip and fall lawyer has the knowledge and know how to maneuver your case to a substantial verdict or settlement.