Road Injury Prevention Litigation Journal
Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.
November 1, 1997
TranSafety, Inc.
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City in New York Found Not Liable for Motorist's Fall in Municipal Parking Lot

A woman fell in a municipal parking lot and sued the city of New Rochelle, New York for the lot's uneven surface. The Supreme Court of Westchester County granted the city's request for a summary judgment and dismissal of the suit. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, ruled that the parking lot qualified as a highway; therefore, since the city had not received previous notice of the condition, it could not be held liable for the woman's injuries.

THE INCIDENT

As Elizabeth Lauria was returning to her car at 3:00 a.m. in a municipal parking lot, she fell and was seriously injured. She sued the city of New Rochelle, New York (City) for negligence, saying that the pavement's uneven surface had caused her to trip and fall.

TRIAL COURT DECISION

The City moved for summary judgment because it had not received notice of the pavement defect. The Supreme Court of Westchester County granted the City's motion and dismissed the suit.

According to municipal law, to be held liable for the uneven pavement, the City must receive "prior written notice of a defective or unsafe condition of any street, highway, bridge, culvert, sidewalk or crosswalk." The court found that the parking lot was classified as a highway, because the fall occurred after 6:00 p.m. when this municipal lot was open to the general public at no charge.

The court granted the City's motion for summary judgment "on the ground that it had received no prior written notice of the alleged defective condition of the parking lot in accordance with the General Municipal Law and defendant's City Charter."

Lauria moved for a reargument, which the court granted. The trial court upheld its previous ruling.

APPEALS COURT DECISION

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that prior written notice was not required since the parking lot was not a highway and, contrary to the trial court's contention, not one of the six locations specified in the municipal law. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, disagreed, stating that locations "where the general public has a general right of passage" are legally highways.

The plaintiff countered that the parking lot was not a highway because of the charges and permits required for parking there. The court dismissed this argument given the time of the plaintiff's fall, saying that the lot was open to the public without the requirement of payment or a permit after 6:00 p.m.

In an alternative argument, the plaintiff pointed out her allegation, in the original complaint, that the parking lot was poorly lighted. The lack of adequate lighting contributed to the fall and constituted the "affirmative creation of a defect." The court disagreed on the grounds that, for the defendant to be liable for the lighting, the plaintiff would have had to establish that the defendant "had a duty to light the area" where Lauria was injured. The City had no such duty.

The lower court's orders were affirmed without costs.

[For further reference, see Lauria v. City of New Rochelle (A.D.3 Dept. 1996) Vol. 639 New York State Reporter, 2nd Series, 867]

Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.



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