Slippery When Wet Does Not Automatically Equate To Liability (NY)

In Bock v. LouMarita Realty Corporation, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a wet sidewalk in front of the defendants’ premises.  Bock testified at his deposition that when he exited the premises, he suddenly slipped and fell to his left, striking his head on a metal rail.  He described the sidewalk as “an extremely slippery piece of rock or concrete off a very much coarser piece of pavement . . . the surface was shiny and firm.”  The owner’s representative testified that the sidewalk was made of granite that was connected to masonry by a cement strand, there were no defects in the sidewalk and it was raining at the time of the accident.  The defense’s expert engineer also submitted an affidavit stating that the sidewalk was of an acceptable slip resistance and there was no evidence of a tripping hazard or defect in the sidewalk.

In opposition, Bock claimed that a question of fact existed as to whether the defendants neglected to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition and that the concrete patch of sidewalk, in and of itself, was a sidewalk defect.  In support, he submitted an affidavit from his engineering expert who found that the concrete “patch” was a tripping hazard and that the slip resistance test revealed the surface to be above the maximum allowable co-efficient.

The trial court found that despite his expert’s affidavit, Bock failed to show the existence of a defective or dangerous condition in the sidewalk, nor that the defendants created or had knowledge of such a condition.  Specifically, the court found Bock’s expert affidavit merely stated in a conclusory fashion that the sidewalk was inherently dangerous because it was slippery and slick when wet.

Just because a sidewalk becomes slippery when wet, does not necessarily mean that it is a dangerous or defective condition, even if the plaintiff’s expert engineer says so.

Special thanks to Michael Nunley for his contributions to the post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at nbrown@wcmlaw.com.