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Williams v. Town of Smithtown

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
Jan 20, 2016
135 A.D.3d 854 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016)

Opinion

2015-00796 Index No. 17285/11.

01-20-2016

Helen WILLIAMS, respondent, v. TOWN OF SMITHTOWN, et al., appellants.

Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, Smithtown, N.Y. (John M. Denby of counsel), for appellant Town of Smithtown.   Patrick F. Adams, P.C., Great River, N.Y. (Gary A. Pagliarello of counsel), for appellant Roman Catholic Church of Sts. Philip and James. Michael S. Langella PC, Hauppauge, N.Y., for respondent.


Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, Smithtown, N.Y. (John M. Denby of counsel), for appellant Town of Smithtown.

Patrick F. Adams, P.C., Great River, N.Y. (Gary A. Pagliarello of counsel), for appellant Roman Catholic Church of Sts. Philip and James.

Michael S. Langella PC, Hauppauge, N.Y., for respondent.

Opinion

In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the defendant Town of Smithtown appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (Asher, J.), dated October 15, 2014, as denied that branch of its motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it, and the defendant Roman Catholic Church of Sts. Philip and James separately appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of the same order as denied that branch of its motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it.

ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with one bill of costs, and those branches of the appellants' respective motions which were for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them are granted.

The plaintiff allegedly tripped and fell on an uneven sidewalk abutting property owned by the defendant Roman Catholic Church of Sts. Philip and James (hereinafter Church) in the defendant Town of Smithtown. As a result, the plaintiff allegedly sustained personal injuries. She commenced this action against the Town and the Church. The Town moved, inter alia, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it, contending that it did not have prior written notice of the alleged defect and that it did not create the alleged defect. The Church moved, for, among other things, summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it, contending that it did not have a duty to maintain the subject sidewalk and that it did not create the alleged hazardous condition. The Supreme Court denied both motions.

“Where, as here, a municipality has enacted a prior written notice law, it may not be subjected to liability for injuries caused by a dangerous condition which comes within the ambit of the law unless it has received prior written notice of the alleged defect or dangerous condition, or an exception to the prior written notice requirement applies” (Maya v. Town of Hempstead, 127 A.D.3d 1146, 1148, 8 N.Y.S.3d 372; see Poirier v. City of Schenectady, 85 N.Y.2d 310, 624 N.Y.S.2d 555, 648 N.E.2d 1318; Lahens v. Town of Hempstead, 132 A.D.3d 954, 18 N.Y.S.3d 187; Forbes v. City of New York, 85 A.D.3d 1106, 1107, 926 N.Y.S.2d 309). “The only two recognized exceptions to the prior written notice requirement are where the municipality created the defect through an affirmative act of negligence, or where the defect resulted from a special use of the property by the municipality which conferred a special benefit on it” (Levy v. City of New York, 94 A.D.3d 1060, 1060, 943 N.Y.S.2d 187; see Amabile v. City of Buffalo, 93 N.Y.2d 471, 474, 693 N.Y.S.2d 77, 715 N.E.2d 104; Wolin v. Town of N. Hempstead, 129 A.D.3d 833, 834, 11 N.Y.S.3d 627). Moreover, “the affirmative negligence exception ‘is limited to work by the [municipality] that immediately results in the existence of a dangerous condition’ ” (Yarborough v. City of New York, 10 N.Y.3d 726, 728, 853 N.Y.S.2d 261, 882 N.E.2d 873, quoting Oboler v. City of New York, 8 N.Y.3d 888, 889, 832 N.Y.S.2d 871, 864 N.E.2d 1270).

Insofar as is relevant here, the Town established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that it did not have prior written notice of the defect (see Lahens v. Town of Hempstead, 132 A.D.3d 954, 18 N.Y.S.3d 187; Pagano v. Town of Smithtown, 74 A.D.3d 1304, 1305, 904 N.Y.S.2d 729; LiFrieri v. Town of Smithtown, 72 A.D.3d 750, 752, 898 N.Y.S.2d 629), and that it did not create the alleged defect through an affirmative act of negligence (see Yarborough v. City of New York, 10 N.Y.3d at 728, 853 N.Y.S.2d 261, 882 N.E.2d 873). In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

With respect to the Church, generally, liability for injuries sustained as a result of dangerous and defective conditions on public sidewalks is placed on the municipality, and not the abutting landowner (see Hausser v. Giunta, 88 N.Y.2d 449, 452–453, 646 N.Y.S.2d 490, 669 N.E.2d 470). An abutting landowner will be liable to a pedestrian injured by a defect in a sidewalk only where the landowner breached a specific ordinance or statute which obligates the owner to maintain the sidewalk (see Peretz v. Village of Great Neck Plaza, 130 A.D.3d 867, 868, 14 N.Y.S.3d 113; Morelli v. Starbucks Corp., 107 A.D.3d 963, 964, 968 N.Y.S.2d 542). Insofar as is relevant here, the Church established, prima facie, that no statute or ordinance imposed upon it a duty to maintain the subject sidewalk (see Code of Town of Smithtown 221–4[A]6 ). The Church also established, prima facie, that it did not create the alleged hazardous condition (see Lahens v. Town of Hempstead, 132 A.D.3d 954, 18 N.Y.S.3d 187; Peretz v. Village of Great Neck Plaza, 130 A.D.3d at 869, 14 N.Y.S.3d 113). In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted those branches of the respective motions of the Town and the Church which were for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them.


Summaries of

Williams v. Town of Smithtown

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
Jan 20, 2016
135 A.D.3d 854 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016)
Case details for

Williams v. Town of Smithtown

Case Details

Full title:Helen WILLIAMS, respondent, v. TOWN OF SMITHTOWN, et al., appellants.

Court:Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

Date published: Jan 20, 2016

Citations

135 A.D.3d 854 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016)
24 N.Y.S.3d 150
2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 359

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