Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Court of Appeals Issues Decision in Scalding Bathwater Case

At issue in Simmons v. Sacchetti was whether the landlord could be held liable where an unattended infant was burned in a bathtub of scalding hot water. The First Department majority held “A landlord cannot be required to adjust the hot water temperature in order to protect children from adults who fail to do so.” Justice Acosta dissented stating (1) that evidence the water temperature 20 days after the incident exceeded the temperature known to instantly scald an infant’s skin and (2) that the building's hot water system did not have a temperature relief valve, in violation of New York City Building Code Reference Standard 16, P107.26(b), raised issues of fact as to whether the landlord violated its duty to maintain the premises is a reasonably safe condition. Judge Acosta also would have denied summary judgment as to the boiler contractor.

The Court of Appeals has modified finding that there is a question of fact as to whether the owner and management company negligently failed to maintain the apartment building's boiler and domestic hot water system in a reasonably safe condition and whether the negligence of those defendants proximately caused the infant plaintiff's injuries. The Court also found that there were issues of fact as to whether the plaintiff's negligence was a superseding cause of the child's injuries. Finally, the Court held, as a matter of law, that the boiler contractor did not violate any duty owed to plaintiffs.

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