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Know Your Rights: When Is a Property Owner Liable for an NYC Slip and Fall Accident?

Posted in Slip and Fall Accidents on April 5, 2022

Know Your Rights: When Is a Property Owner Liable for an NYC Slip and Fall Accident?

Generally, everyone has a duty to conduct their affairs with sufficient care to avoid injuring others. A motorist, for example, must drive safely by obeying traffic laws and making prudent driving decisions.

The owner of a building or parcel of real estate must ensure that their property is reasonably safe for visitors. If a visitor to the property suffers a slip and fall accident, the property owner may be responsible for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Contact an experienced New York City slip and fall attorney near you to help you get back on your feet.

What Is the Duty of a Property Owner in New York?

A New York property owner or occupier has a duty of care to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for guests. If the owner rents the property to a tenant, the tenant usually bears this liability instead of the owner. The term “owner” refers to the owner or occupier, whichever applies from here on out.

A property owner is not liable for every possible danger on their property. At most, they are responsible only for hazards that they actually knew of or could discover through a reasonable inspection of the property. Sometimes, the owner must repair a dangerous condition before allowing visitors on the property. In other cases, a simple warning may be reasonable under the facts and circumstances.

A “Keep Out” sign in front of a cellar door, for example, might suffice if visitors are all adults. However, if children frequent the property, the owner might need to lock the cellar door. The property owner’s duty depends on the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others and the burden of avoiding the risk.

Visitor Status Under New York Premises Liability Law 

Many states’ laws identify different types of visitors and assign a heightened duty of care depending on the visitor’s status. However, New York law abolished this distinction and instead implemented a single standard of care for property owners.

We briefly discuss the different types of visitors below.


Invitees are people the property owner expressly or impliedly invited to the property for the owner’s purposes. They might include customers, mailpersons, or people entering public property.


Licensees are people with implicit permission to enter the property for their own purposes. A licensee might be a guest at a friend’s house party, a door-to-door salesperson, or a lost motorist asking for directions.


Trespassers are those who don’t have permission to be on the premises. They could include someone who enters a yard with a sign prohibiting trespassing or someone hunting on land without permission.

How Do You Prove That a Property Owner is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident in NYC? 

Since visitor status isn’t determinative under New York law, how do you prove that a property owner is liable for a slip and fall accident? You must prove that the property owner was negligent.

To demonstrate negligence, you must show that:

  • The property owner owed you a duty of care;
  • The property owner breached that duty of care;
  • The breach of duty directly and proximately caused you harm; and
  • You suffered damages as a result.

A jury will look at the facts and circumstances of the case and determine what a “reasonable person” would have done (or not done) in the same situation.

Common Forms of Property Owner Negligence That Cause Slip and Fall Accidents

Premises liability for a slip and fall accident can result from a failure to:

  • Erect a “Wet Floor” sign after mopping;
  • Remove ice from a parking lot;
  • Properly maintain an escalator in a department store;
  • Repair loose stair railing;
  • Replace a burnt-out lightbulb in an otherwise dark stairwell; or
  • Remove obstacles on the floor that could cause a tripping hazard.

This list is not exhaustive. Any number of factors can cause a slip and fall accident.

Accidents That Might Evade Premises Liability

A property owner is not liable for all slip and fall injuries that occur on their property. Some accidents are nobody’s fault, while others may be the victim’s fault.

The following are a few examples of when a property owner may not be liable:

  • The victim falls into a previously unknown sinkhole that opened when they stepped on top of it;
  • A family dog bites a burglar;
  • In a restaurant, the victim slips on some juice that another customer spilled 10 seconds ago (the owner had no time to clean the spill before the accident occurred and may not have yet known of its existence);
  • An intoxicated customer falls in a grocery store parking lot and breaks their hip;
  • The victim foolishly climbs to the roof of a building and falls to the ground.

Beware – juries determine liability on a case-by-case basis, and different juries can look at the same set of facts in different ways.

Seek Legal Representation if You’ve Been Injured in a Slip & Fall Accident in NYC

If you sustained an injury on someone else’s property or your family member suffered a wrongful death, you will need to prove that the property owner was negligent to recover damages. Proving liability can be challenging if the property owner fixes the defect before you can document how it caused your injuries. You will likely need an experienced personal injury lawyer to maximize your chances of recovery.

Contact Our Slip and Fall Accident Law Firm in New York, NY

If you need legal assistance, contact the New York City slip and fall accident lawyers at Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation.

We have two convenient locations in New York:

Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers – New York City Office
450 7th Ave #409
New York, NY 10123
(212) 564-2800

Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers – Brooklyn Office
26 Court St Suite 2511
Brooklyn, NY 11242
(718) 802-1600

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