Supermarket Sidewalk Accident/Premises Liability

A Brooklyn home health aide working for an elderly patient in Queens tripped and fell after stepping into a hole in the sidewalk directly in front of a supermarket. The supermarket asked the court to dismiss the home health aide's case because under the lease it was the property owner's responsibility to maintain and repair the sidewalk. In addition, the supermarket argued that there was no evidence to show that the hole in the sidewalk, which caused the accident, was there for a sufficient period of time for the supermarket to discover and remedy the condition. We countered these arguments by arguing that the lease was not clear as to whose responsibility it was to maintain and repair the sidewalk. We further argued that the lease in different places had conflicting provisions and that it was impossible to determine the intent of the lease just from the lease agreement alone. Furthermore, we presented decisions from the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, which ruled that a jury is permitted to view photographs of the defect to determine from whether the defective condition existed for a sufficient period of time for the property owner to discover the condition and then remedy it. The court agreed with our analysis and found that this is a question of fact for a jury to determine whether the lease agreement required one or both parties to maintain and repair the sidewalk. The court further ruled in accordance with the Court of Appeals decisions that a photograph of the condition can be offered to the jury at the time of trial for its determination whether the condition existed for a sufficient period of time for the property owner to discover and remedy the condition. The case settled before jury selection. Gueits v. Me Corp., et al., Supreme Court, Queens County, Index No. 302/07