The winter season is almost upon us here in New York City. Unfortunately, every New York City winter is accompanied by treacherous icy conditions - icy conditions that lead to countless slip-and-fall accidents on our city's sidewalks. Those injured on New York City public sidewalks often wonder who can be held accountable for such hazardous conditions.
Property Owner Sidewalk Slip-and-Fall Liability
In 2003, New York City amended their administrative code regarding liability for injuries occurring on sidewalks. Prior to the changes in 2003, a property owner generally owed no duty to pedestrians to remove ice and snow that naturally accumulated on sidewalks abutting their property - but, if a property owner undertook the duty of clearing the sidewalk, they could be held liable for injuries if they negligently created or exacerbated the dangerous condition of the sidewalk.
However after the 2003 changes, NYC Administrative Code Section 7-210 transferred the City's potential tort liability for slippery sidewalks to adjoining property owners. The code created a duty for the "owner of real property abutting any sidewalk...to maintain such sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition," and also made the owner liable for "the negligent failure to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk."
Properties encompassed in this provision include businesses, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, apartment buildings and any other multi-family dwellings of four units or more. The only exception is for owners of "one-, two- or three-family residential real property that is ... in whole or in part, owner occupied, and ... used exclusively for residential purposes."
Liability of Owner When They Hired a Contractor
The question of liability may get a bit murkier when the property owner has contracted with someone else for the removal of ice and snow on their property during winter months. Prior to 2003 when a property owner had no duty to remove snow from public sidewalks, an owner would generally not be liable for the creation of a dangerous condition by an independent contractor who removed the snow.
After 2003, property owners are now under a statutory non-delegable duty to clean and maintain public sidewalks that abut their property - including liability for negligent failure to remove snow and ice. However if a property owner is found vicariously liable solely due to a contractor's negligent snow and ice removal, they can seek indemnification from the contractor.