PHA May Be Liable for Slip-and-Fall Accident
Facts: A resident sued her local PHA after she slipped and fell on exterior steps covered in snow and ice. The steps connected the plaza outside her building to a park area that leads to an adjacent public roadway. At trial, the PHA didn’t dispute that it had constructive notice of the allegedly hazardous condition of the steps, which were an intended means of access between the building plaza and the sidewalk by the roadway. But the PHA argued that based on the resident’s testimony, her actions were the primary cause of her accident because it wasn’t foreseeable that she would use those steps when she knew that alternate paths clear of snow were available.
The PHA asked the court for a ruling in its favor without a trial. The trial court granted the request and dismissed the case. The resident appealed.
Ruling: A New York appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision and ordered the trial to continue.
Reasoning: The appeals court stated that there was more than one conclusion that could be drawn from the facts, so a trial was needed to determine each party’s negligence. The lower court had relied on a prior case in which the PHA did clear snow from the public walkway, resulting in a mound of snow being piled along the curb, and the plaintiff unforeseeably walked over the mound of snow, outside the crosswalk, rather than using an available cleared path.
In this case, the resident presented evidence that the PHA didn’t clear an established pedestrian walkway at all, although it was foreseeable that residents and others would attempt to use it to exit the premises. And according to the established facts, another resident, walking with the plaintiff, took the same route with her on the night of her accident. A PHA employee also testified that the stairs were supposed to be cleared of snow and ice after the storm.
The court ruled that the PHA’s argument that resident’s conduct was a superseding or intervening cause of the accident is without merit since a pedestrian slip is exactly the risk that is expected when an owner doesn’t clear snow and ice from pedestrian pathways.
- Dillard v. New York City Housing Authority, December 2013