Sidewalk Accident/Premises Liability

A Brooklyn pharmacist tripped on a cracked and raised sidewalk in front of a two-family home, tearing the rotator cuff in his shoulder. The law provides that in cases where the adjacent property is a multiple dwelling of three families or less, the city of New York is responsible for injuries that result due to a defective sidewalk. However, in order to prosecute a case against the city of New York, you must prove that the city of New York had notice of the defective sidewalk. Our investigation revealed that the city of New York was never put on notice of the defective sidewalk as required by law. As such, our client was not able to file a claim against the city of New York for his injuries. Fortunately, for our client, the law also provides where the home, adjacent to a defective sidewalk, is greater than three families or is not used exclusively for residential purposes or is not wholly or partially owner-occupied, the property owner is responsible for the injuries that are sustained because of a defective sidewalk. In this case, one apartment was being used by the homeowner and the other was rented out to a separate family. Our investigation revealed that the apartment that was rented out to a separate family was being used by one of the tenants for business purposes. We learned that the tenant designated himself as the registered agent for the service of legal papers for a number of corporations and had listed his apartment address with the secretary of state for receiving legal documents on behalf of these corporations. In addition, we obtained copies of two certificates of incorporation from the secretary of state where the tenant listed himself as an accounting office at his home address. We subpoenaed the tenant for a deposition and further learned that he prepares income tax and payroll tax returns at his residence on a limited basis. A court will have to determine at some point in the very near future whether the homeowner's exemption under the statute is lost because of the tenant's accounting work. Supreme Court, Kings County, Birnbaum v. Haynes, Index No. 833/09