Suing a Commercial Landlord for Injuries Occurring on Property in New York

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New York state imposes strict laws regarding how properties must be constructed and maintained in order to avoid injury to renters, business customers, visitors and others. The rules that apply are based on the area to be protected and the status of the visitor. It is important to talk to an experienced premises injury lawyer to learn about your potential right to recovery.

Determining the Responsible Party for Injuries

One common hurdle in New York premises liability claims is determining the party who is responsible for the injuries. Commercial properties are often divided into multiple properties that are developed by commercial developers. This developer may then rent out the space or sell portions of the building to different businesses or owners. Other large companies may manage the properties rather than the businesses that have offices that occupy the space. Due to multiple entities and individuals having ownership, it is often confusing who owns different parts of the same building.

Offices, stores and other commercial establishments inside a building may be the responsibility of the company that leases out the space. Many injured individuals may sue the party that leases the space out to the individual business. In other situations, the individual business may be responsible for the injury. If a person was injured in a common area such as a stairwell, hallway or shared bathroom, the customer may sue the landlord for the building. If the injury was the result of a lack of maintenance or not making proper repairs, the building superintendent or landlord may be legally responsible for the accident. However, if the accident is the result of poor construction, such as a fire escape not working properly or a collapsing hand rail, the fault may lie with the company that constructed the building.

Legal Duties to Maintain the Premises

Commercial and private building owners are responsible for maintaining certain duties to prevent injuries to visitors or customers. If the location where an individual is injured is an office or store where a person is invited for the financial benefit of the business owner, the owner owes a higher duty to the visitor. Property owners are responsible for protecting visitors from hidden dangers. They have a duty to make repairs on risks that are known to them, ensure that hand rails and railings are properly installed and sturdy, to provide proper lighting in areas where it is necessary and to clean up spills and debris. If it is not possible to make a repair at the time, owners have a duty to warn customers of potential dangers, such as by putting up a sign to help prevent slip and fall injuries.

Establishing Negligence

Before a victim can recover for the damages that he or she sustained in a slip and fall accident in a commercial property, he or she must establish that the cause of his or her injury was negligence. This requires that the victim show what the business owner’s legal duty was, that the at-fault party failed to honor that duty and that this failure led to the injuries.

Defenses to Negligence Suits

There may be several defenses to negligence suits. For example, the property owner whom the victim sues may not have been responsible for the legal duty the victim alleges that he or she breached. This may have been the duty of the business owner if the victim sued the commercial landlord. Conversely, it could be the duty of the landlord instead of the business owner who is sued. A premises liability lawyer may recommend suing all parties whom the victim suspects may be responsible for the duty and later allowing the jury to assign blame.

Another potential defense is if the property owner says that the danger was open and obvious and that the victim was responsible for his or her own injury. Some defense lawyers may try to argue that the property owner properly provided a warning sign or implemented a safety measure that should eliminate liability. They may also argue that the property owner was not aware of the danger and thatit had not been present long enough for the business owner to have become aware of it in order to fix it.

Statute of Limitations

Every personal injury lawsuit has a strict time limit in New York. Generally for most personal injury cases, this is three years from the date of the accident. The case must be filed within this time limit in order to prevent it from being barred.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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