Monday, March 26, 2012

Landowner's Duty to Illuminate Known Conditions

In Taylor v. Lands End Realty Corp., the plaintiff was injured in a nightime fall from an unlit, third-floor landing. The plaintiff, after smoking a cigarette on the landing, tried to walk down the stairway in the dark. Unfortunately, an independent contractor had recently removed the stairs for repairs, and the plaintiff fell three stories to the ground.

The defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied on the claim that it had a duty to light the exterior landing and stairs. The Third Department affirmed, observing that the Court of Appeals has held that a property owner may have a duty to illuminate property at night when it is aware of a condition that may be alleviated by illumination (see Peralta v Henriquez, 100 NY2d 139, 144 [2003]). As such, the Courts must "examine the particular circumstances of each case to determine whether such a duty exists, considering, among other things, '[t]he use to which [the] property is put, and the frequency of that use by others' (id. at 144)."

Here, summary judgment was properly denied due to scant evidence of the purpose of the landing and the frequency of use by others.

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