Proving New York City is Responsible for Negligent Snow and Ice Removal
In an earlier article, we discussed a snow removal contractor's tort liability under New York law.
But do the same rules apply when New York City is the one who (tried) to remove the snow and ice? Or, are snow and ice removal also governed by the requirement that the City receive prior written notice of a dangerous or defective condition before they can be held negligent as a matter of New York law? (For more on the topic of the prior written notice requirement against New York municipalities, please see "Why Many Defective Sidewalk Cases in New York Are Doomed to Fail").
Fortunately, and consistent with the rules articulated in "How to Prove a Trip and Fall Case Against New York City," New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, recently held in Marco v. Village/Town of Mt. Kisco that despite local laws requiring prior written notice of defects, this case, which involved a slip and fall on black ice, these notice rules were inapplicable for the following reason:
"Prior written notice statutes were designed precisely to release municipalities from the "vexing problem of municipal street and sidewalk liability" (Barry v Niagara Frontier Tr. Sys., 35 NY2d 629, 633 ) when they have no reasonable opportunity to remedy the problem ...
"[T]hese statutes were never intended to and ought not to exempt a municipality from liability as a matter of law where a municipality's negligence in the maintenance of a municipally owned parking facility triggers the foreseeable development of black ice as soon as the temperature shifts. Unlike a pothole, which ordinarily is a product of wear and tear of traffic or long-term melting and freezing on pavement that at one time was safe and served an important purpose, a pile of plowed snow in a parking lot is a cost-saving, pragmatic solution to the problem of an accumulation of snow that presents the foreseeable, indeed known, risk of melting and refreezing."