36 THE QUEENS COURIER • QUEENS BUSINESS • SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
NO BARRELS, NO TAPE Q: While riding my bicycle on a sidewalk, I fell. Two months earlier, the Town
had excavated a portion of the sidewalk and backfilled it with a temporary patch,
cordoning off the area with safety barrels and yellow caution tape. By the time of my
accident, the safety barrels and yellow caution tape were gone.
A: With exceptions, liability for injuries sustained as a result of a dangerous
condition on a public sidewalk is placed on the municipality, and not on the owner of the
abutting land. The exceptions are when the landowner actually created the dangerous
condition, made negligent repairs that caused the condition, created the dangerous
condition through a special use of the sidewalk, or violated a statute or ordinance
imposing liability on the landowner for failing to maintain the sidewalk.
Even where a statute or ordinance imposes a duty on a landowner to
maintain and repair the abutting sidewalk, the owner will often seek to establish that
nevertheless it had no duty to maintain this particular portion of the sidewalk or lacked
constructive notice of the condition that caused your accident.
With respect to the Town, quite possibly it has enacted a ‘prior written
notice’ law. Under such a law, the Town may not be subjected to liability for injuries
caused by a dangerous condition which comes within the ambit of the law unless it has
received prior written notice of the alleged defect or dangerous condition, or an
exception to the prior written notice requirement applies.
In general, there are two recognized exceptions to such a law – that the
municipality affirmatively created the defect through an act of negligence or that a
special use resulted in a special benefit to the locality. The affirmative-act exception is
limited to work by the municipality that immediately results in the existence of a
Even if the Town did not receive prior written notice of the dangerous
condition, your attorney will argue that its work on the sidewalk immediately left it in
a condition that was dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists.