How can the failure to clean subway stations result in a lawsuit?
Nov 05, 2019 | 2109 views | 0 0 comments | 119 119 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In a recent case involving a slip and fall, a subway rider was walking down a staircase inside the station when he was injured.  The injured person slipped on a discarded MetroCard left on the staircase.  As a result of his fall, the injured subway rider had a severe fracture to his leg which required surgical repair. In cases involving slip and falls on debris, it is important for the entity responsible for maintaining the premises to show they did everything required of them before claiming they are not liable. 

The injured subway rider sued the New York City Transit Authority claiming the presence of discarded MetroCards inside the station was a recurring condition that was left unaddressed.  In response, the Transit Authority claimed its subway cleaner was following his regular cleaning schedule inside the station and is therefore not responsible for his injuries. 

A review of the injured party’s evidence disputed the Transit Authority’s position.  The Station Cleaner testified that discarded MetroCards on the stairwell was a recurring condition at the subway station that required cleaning.  He further admitted that he did not always follow the written cleaning schedule.  This deviation from the schedule included the date of the accident.  He also did not know when the staircase was last inspected or cleaned before the accident. 

After all discovery was completed, the Transit Authority made a request to the judge, asking the court to dismiss the injured party’s case.  It was the Transit Authority’s claim that the employees responsible for maintaining the subway station were not given notice of the MetroCards on the staircase and therefore lacked enough time to have cleaned them before the accident.  They further claimed an adequate plan for cleaning the station was in effect.  This included regular inspections of the station and cleaning any debris found during this time.

The lower court agreed with the Transit Authority and dismissed the case.   On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed the lower court decision and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case.

In New York, a property owner responsible for the maintenance and inspection of premises, or in this case, a subway station, must show that it lacked any prior notification of a dangerous condition that resulted in a person’s injuries.  This can be “actual notice”, such as an employee visually observing a broken step or handrail at a subway station.  This can also be “constructive notice” where the dangerous condition existed for a long-enough time that the person responsible for inspecting the premises would have known about the condition and set it right.  In this case, the Transit Authority was required to show that it followed a reasonable cleaning routine on the date of the accident; when it last inspected or cleaned the station’s staircase and whether or not it found any discarded MetroCards or debris during this inspection.

In this case, the injured party was able to reverse the lower court decision dismissing his case.  The appellate court agreed with the injured party that the Transit Authority was unable to establish a lack of notice of the discarded MetroCards on the staircase.  In doing so, the appellate court considered the subway cleaner’s testimony where he described that he was given a Cleaning Manual and a written cleaning schedule.  This showed the Transit Authority did have a procedure in place for cleaning and removing discarded MetroCards from the subway stations.  However, the cleaner admitted he did not recall whether he complied with this schedule on the date of the accident.  He also did not recall when he last cleaned or inspected the subway staircase before the accident.  Based on the cleaner’s lack of knowledge about whether he complied with the cleaning procedures, the appellate court found the Transit Authority did not prove that it complied with the cleaning schedule for dealing with the problem of discarded MetroCards.

This case shows how a property owner responsible for maintaining a building or public area must have employees who follow a regular schedule.  When a person slips and falls on garbage or some other non-permanent condition, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.  Our investigators can go to the site and speak with any witnesses or employees who observed the dangerous condition.  By investigating the accident scene, we can prove that a condition was dangerous and the property owner was aware of it, or should have been aware of it.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at swp@plattalaw.com, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.

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