The Building Owner's Obligation to the Public Under New York Law
As noted elsewhere, New York's laws with regard to a building owner's responsibilities to the general public have changed rather markedly over the last several years. Most significant among these changes was the legislature's enactment of NYC Administrative Code §7-210, which shifted liability for the maintenance of sidewalks from the City of New York to the abutting property owner. (For more information on this topic, please see "Why Many Defective Sidewalk Cases in New York Are Doomed to Fail").
But what about the entrance to the building itself? What is the building owner's obligation then?
Fortunately, New York's appellate courts have provided fairly clear guidance on the issue:
"Where a building is open to the public, [the building owner] has a 'nondelegable duty to provide a reasonably safe means of ingress and egress, and can be held vicariously liable for any negligence by a third-party defendant that caused the entrance to become unsafe." Logiudice v. Silverstein Properties, Inc., 48 AD3d 286, 287 [1st Dept 2008].
Interestingly, in the Logiudice case, the court held that the defendant building owner, as well as its management company could be held liable in negligence for a plaintiff's personal injuries that were sustained secondary to a trip and fall merely based upon a purportedly defective mat that was placed at the building's entrance.
Naturally, the underlying basis for holding a building owner liable for a defective condition at its premises is one thing: control. See, e.g., Ritto v. Goldberg, 27 NY2d 887, 889 ; Butler v. Rafferty, 100 NY2d 265, 270 .
And this certainly makes sense; otherwise, it would prove manifestly unfair to hold these defendants responsible for the presence of the defective condition.