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Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.

Articles Tagged with premises liability nyc

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BABY-GRETAImagine a scenario almost too terrible to speak about.  But by not speaking about it, justice will never be done, and others might be injured.  On May 17, 2015, a caring, loving grandmother took her 2-year-old grandchild for a walk in New York City.  They paused for a moment and were in front of a building when the unimaginable and unthinkable happened –– a portion of the cement façade of the building fell 8 stories and crushed that beautiful grandchild to death in front of her grandmother’s eyes.

In New York State there is a doctrine of law known as “zone of danger” damages, in which an “immediate” family member can receive compensation for the emotional harm suffered in witnessing the death of a family member.  But there was one caveat: before today, a grandmother was not considered to be an “immediate” family member.  Unfortunately, the grandmother’s claim for zone-of-danger damages was dismissed by the Appellate Division.  That injustice was something that had to be rectified.  The NYC personal injury lawyers of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman and Mackauf  have never given up in the face of injustice.  “When the law is wrong, it’s time to change the law,” said Ben Rubinowitz.  “That is why we took this case and fought all the way to the highest Court in the State.”

Today, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision reversing the Appellate Division.  Through our hard work and fortitude justice will now be done.  The grandmother’s claim has been reinstated and a jury will now decide what the damages should be awarded for such a horrific injury.

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1200px-Harlem_condemned_buildingTo prevent accidents related to façade collapse or falling debris, any New York City buildings of six stories or higher must have its façade inspected every five years  as part of what is known as the “Façade Inspection Safety Program”. This program was started in 1980 after Grace Gold, a Columbia University student, was killed by falling debris on a Broadway sidewalk. It was originally called Local Law 10 which then morphed into Local Law 11 as the DOB tried to improve the inspection  process.

Despite the regular inspections,  falling debris from defective façades continue to kill and injure pedestrians.  Last year multiple cases of façade collapses including a dramatic accident during which architect Erica Tishman was killed by falling masonry, lead the Department of Buildings to issue a new amended rule for façade inspections in New York City just before the start of the 9th Cycle Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) starting on February 20.

Penalties are going up

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one57-crane1The NYC Department of Buildings is failing to adequately protect New Yorkers from dangerous construction accidents. A recent audit by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer show that for the 85,000 complaints that the agency received in 2019, the DOB was late in one out of five initial inspection attempts. Additionally when a first inspection took place and resulted in violations for immediately hazardous conditions, the DOB failed to make a legally required inspection  within the 60-day statutory deadline. The DOB’ s negligent attitude allows for unsafe building conditions to remain uncorrected, potentially putting New Yorkers at risk of dying or being injured in dangerous construction accidents.

“No one  should have to live or work in fear of debris or unstable scaffolding crashing down on them in a home, place of work, or at any other site in this city,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

How does the DOB respond to complaints of potentially unsafe buildings?

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location of the Sinkhole accidentA man suffered serious personal injury after falling 15 feet into a sinkhole in New York City. The 33 year old victim was waiting for his bus in front of a building located at 4521 Third Avenue in Tremont in the Bronx when the sidewalk suddenly sank under him. The accident occurred last Saturday a little bit after noon. The FDNY rushed to the rescue, brought a ladder to the scene and brought the victim back to the surface. The man was then rushed to the hospital where he is now listed in stable condition. The NYC Department of Buildings found that the vault of the building was in disrepair, causing the ground above it to sink.  The DOT issued a construction violation for the vault and also ordered the building to be immediately vacated. According to the Gothamist, the building was already empty with the exception of a dentist office on the first floor. The building is owned by EH And HD 183rd Realty. It was put on sale around a year ago for $9 million. The owner was ordered by the DOB to install a construction fence around the building to avoid other accidents. The building has a total of 28 complaints and 29 violations from the DOB including 4 active. 2 of the active ones are elevator related violations.

Who is responsible for a sinkhole on a sidewalk?

In New York, it is the responsibility of the building owner to maintain its property  in a safe condition.  If someone is injured because the owner neglected to maintain its property in safe condition, the owner may be held legally responsible for the injuries if they occurred on the owner’s property (see our premises liability page). In New York City, the maintenance of the sidewalk in front of the property is usually the responsibility of the owner.

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location of the building collapseBuildings continue to collapse like  card castles in New York City.  The facade of a building located at 204 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg came crashing down on the sidewalk yesterday afternoon around 12;45 pm. Luckily nobody was injured in the collapse as the building was vacant at the time of the accident and nobody was in the street because of the heavy rain caused by the tropical Storm Isaias.  There was only damage to the cars parked in the vicinity of the building as falling debris poured onto the street. Residents of adjacent buildings were  evacuated. The DOB issued a fully vacate order to the building located next door at 206 Bedford Avenue while inspectors are still figuring out the causes of the partial structural building collapse.

The  building that collapsed had not logged any complaints since 2003 when a complaint for loud noise related to illegal construction after hours was filed.  2 violations were opened by the DOB after the collapse  for “structure rendered non-compliant after front facade and 3rd floor collapsed”.

The Brooklyn building collapse followed a series of  other building collapses in New York City:

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location of the falling debris accidentA man suffered a skull fracture after a facade collapsed on him as he was walking on a New York City sidewalk.  39 year-old Oumar Ba, a father of two, was walking  on the sidewalk on St. Johns Place in Crown Heights yesterday afternoon around 3:00 pm. when a chunk of bricks and debris fell on him.  His friend Abdouramane Thiam whom he was visiting, as well as other local vendors who witnessed the accident ran to rescue the man as he was lying unconscious on the ground. They called 911 and applied pressure on the back of his head to contain the bleeding until the EMS arrived.  Oumar Ba was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and injuries to his ribs and shoulder. He is now in stable condition.

Violation for for failure to maintain exterior building wall open since 2004!

The building is an old movie theater that has been reconverted into commercial use. Several complaints dating from as far as 2004 have been logged with the DOB about the illegal  occupancy of the second floor. The building received a total of 37 DOB violations including 28 still open and dating as far as 1991.  The building also has OATH/ECB violations for failure to maintain the exterior building walls open since 2004! The violation mentions “brick work cracked and mortar joints missing with missing bricks at second floor front of building also defective brick work with missing mortar joint”.

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1200px-Harlem_condemned_buildingTwo people were recently killed by falling debris in New York. In January a woman was killed in Queens after a piece of plywood detached from a building (see previous blog). A month before another woman was killed in Midtown after debris from a building under construction fell on her (see previous post).

Months before the accident occurred, the department of buildings issued a class one violation to the building owner notifying him that some pieces of terra-cota were damaged and were causing a risk to pedestrians. The building fought the violation and its lawyer told the DOB that the facade didn’t pose an immediate danger to pedestrians. “The photos and the allegations, even taken together, do not substantiate the claim that there’s any kind of a falling hazard,”  he said to the DOB. The DOB agreed to downgrade the violation but still required that the building owner repair the facade. A permit to put up a sidewalk shed and repair the facade was issued to the building owner but month later nothing had been done and as a result someone died (see article in Wall Street Journal).

In other cases, sheds and protection are installed, but the owner doesn’t effectuate any repairs and ignore the fines received by the DOB. In 2001 the owner of a building in the Bronx was required by the DOB to immediately close a children’s playground that was compromised by a crumbling facade. The owner closed the playground but never did the repairs. The playground has now been closed for almost 20 years and the building owner has ignored 19 violations, didn’t pay the accumulated $49,000 in fines and didn’t show up at 7 hearings on the dangerous conditions. This situation is not unique. In new York City, there are 1,400 facades that have been deemed dangerous for pedestrians by the DOB and that have not been repaired yet (see New York Times article).

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41-28-MainA pedestrian was killed by falling debris in New York City. 67 year old Xiang Ji was walking on Main Street near 41st Street in Flushing, Queens Thursday morning around 9:45 am. There was a strong wind and as she walked in front of the building located at 41-28 Main Street, a piece of plywood covered with aluminium detached from the roof and fell on her.

The woman was knocked down on the sidewalk. Witnesses tried to help her until EMS arrived. She was rushed to the hospital but she couldn’t be saved.

The building owner who has 18 violations open with the DOB was slapped with another violation for failure to properly maintain the building. The DOB also required the owner of the building to erect a sidewalk shed on the top of the sidewalk to protect pedestrians from any further problems. The previous violations were mostly related to effectuating work without a permit inside the building. (Picture of the location of the accident: courtesy of Google Map)

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Thankfully nobody was injured by debris that fell from the elevated line tracks in Queens, NYC, last week. Last Wednesday, a hunk of rusty metal fell on Fernando Marin’s car, cracking the windshield. The car was parked on Roosevelt Ave below the elevated tracks. The owner, Fernando Martin told the NY Daily News that it was really scary and that the metal could have hit his head. He felt lucky to be alive.

Almost two weeks before the incident, a Uber driver also had a terrifying experience just two blocks away. A wooden plank from the elevated train platform flew into his car. The driver wasn’t injured but he was in shock. The wooden debris came from an old supply platform that was installed under the tracks years ago. MTA workers were seen dismantling the rest of the rotted wood beams a few days later.

On Monday the MTA also announced that the line 7 elevated tracks were safe and that it was perfectly safe to stand or drive under them. They also indicated that a truck hit the track structure recently in the areas of the falling debris and that this accident may have caused the two incidents but no root cause has been identified.

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lead-poisoningMany children were poisoned by lead in New York as the result of the city neglecting to inspect and fix lead paint hazards in  apartments belonging to the New York City Housing Authority. Some children died and others now have to attend special-education programs and will never be able to live a normal life. Despite multiple lawsuits De Blasio was recently heard saying “Thank God there has not been harm done to any child because of the mistakes that have been made.” bFor some weird reasons the mayor is still trying to cover for the disastrous NYCHA behavior.

In a recent article the Daily News looks at the story of Juana Bison, the mother of two twin daughters who lived in Cypress Hills Houses. In 2001 after her twin daughters were born, Juana complained about the painting chipping and peeling in her apartment. She was scared that the paint might contain lead and could harm her twins. She asked NYCHA to fix it. Instead of fixing it, a NYCHA worker forged Juana’signature and signed a form indicating that Juana’s apartment had been inspected and no lead paint was found.

When the two daughters were two-yer-old the mother took them for a medical check-up that found a blood-lead level of 20 micro-grams per deciliter in one of the girls. This level is five time the level deemed acceptable by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This level is dangerous and can affect the development of a child. The other child was ok.