Have you ever heard that you can’t fight City Hall? Well, apparently you can’t fall in front of City Hall and expect compensation either.
BSMH wins summary judgment for a municipal client in a trip and fall case. Where a municipality has adopted a prior written notice law, it cannot be held liable for injuries sustained due to a defective condition in a public road unless the plaintiff is able to demonstrate that either the requisite prior written notice of the defect was provided, the municipality affirmatively created the condition through an act of negligence or a special use resulted in a special benefit to the municipality. Wiles v. City of Schenectady 103 A.D.3d 1061, 962 N.Y.S.2d 427 (3d Dep’t 2013). In this case, plaintiff was walking in front of City Hall and allegedly tripped over uneven sidewalk slabs. The municipality had a prior written notice code in place prior to the subject accident. Our firm was able to successfully demonstrate, through deposition testimony and evidence in the record, that (1) there was no prior written notice of any defect on the sidewalk in front of City Hall, (2) that the municipality did not create the condition, and (3) that there was no “special use” of the sidewalk that conferred a special benefit to the defendant.
In opposition, plaintiff argued that there was a “special use” to the sidewalk because it was used a means of ingress and egress to City Hall. The Court found this argument unpersuasive. Although, the prior written notice law does not apply when the municipality acts as a landlord, the defendant did not use City Hall in any private or proprietary capacity. Instead, the municipality used City Hall for normal government functions. Therefore, plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact that there was any private or proprietary use of the sidewalk in front of City Hall that would invoke an exception to the prior written notice law.