FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM DECEMBER 26, 2019 • YEAR IN REVIEW • THE QUEENS COURIER 31
OUT BUT UNDER
Q: In New York City, I was working for a meat-packing company. It leased the entire building. The
lease obliged my employer to keep the public sidewalk and curb in front of the building clean and free from
snow and ice.
In the middle of winter, while I was cutting meat, my glove became sopping wet. So, I went
outside to the sidewalk, which was covered with uneven patches of snow and ice and with dirty foot prints, and
went around the building, to our cafeteria to get a new glove. On my way back, I slipped and fell on a big patch
of ice that had accumulated on the sidewalk.
I have received a workers’ compensation award, and realize that it is my exclusive remedy
against my employer. But can I sue the landlord?
A: Our courts have long held that an out-of-possession landlord who relinquishes control of the
premises, and is not contractually obligated to repair unsafe conditions, is not liable for personal injuries
caused by an unsafe condition existing on the premises. Rather, the tenant is exposed to liability. However, this
ice was not actually on the leased property. Indeed, without a lease provision or a statute to the contrary, it is
difficult to see why either your employer or the landlord should be liable for the maintenance of the City’s
Fortunately for you, there is such a statute. With exceptions not applicable here, section 7-210 of
the Administrative Code of the City of New York shifts all liability for personal injuries related to a sidewalk
hazard from the City to the owner of the abutting property – in your case, to the landlord.
Section 7-210 imposes a nondelegable duty on certain real property owners to maintain City
sidewalks abutting their land in a reasonably safe condition. Under this duty, the owner is liable for personal
injury claims arising from e.g. its negligent failure to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk. This duty applies
with full force notwithstanding an owner’s transfer of possession to a lessee – here, to your employer. Although
the landlord is out of possession, it is under the statute.
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