Section 7-210 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York (the New Sidewalk Law), states that the owner of real property is liable for any injury to property or personal injury that is caused by the failure of the owner to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. This section contains an exemption for one, two, or three-family residential real property that is (1) in whole or part, owner occupied, and (2) used exclusively for residential purposes.
In Story v. The City of New York, this exemption’s scope was tested. Plaintiff Wilma Story allegedly was injured as a result of a trip and fall accident in front of a building in Brooklyn. This property was owned by Morris and Judith Lowinger and had been used as their place of residence as sole occupants for the past 40 years. The property, however, had a sign on it for their son’s law practice and Equinox Company. The Lowingers moved for summary judgment in the action asserting the exemption to Section 7-210. In deposition testimony, undisputed by the plaintiff or co-defendants, the son stated that he used his parent’s address simply as a mail drop and official listing and conducted no business there.
The Supreme Court, Kings County, finding for the Lowingers, held that the purpose of the New Sidewalk Law would be subverted if the exemption did not apply to the defendants because there was no business use other than a mail listing and a sign.
Thanks to Michael Monteith for his contribution to this post.