When you are injured in a slip-and-fall or a trip-and-fall, there are many potential parties who could be liable for your claim. The owner of the property may be held liable for his or her negligence in a premises liability claim. A municipality can be held liable in cases involving city-owned property such as a sidewalk or street. There may also be other parties involved such as street paving contractors, architects and engineers whose negligence led to your injuries.
If your injuries were the result of negligence by a third-party contractor who entered a contract with the premises owner, however, it can be difficult to hold that party liable for negligence. This might include a slip on ice or snow in an area cleared by a snow removal company or an injury caused by a negligent maintenance company. In New York, there are very limited situations where a third-party contractor can be held liable for accidents on the owner's property.
Limited Liability in Contractor Cases
This limited liability stems from a New York Court of Appeals ruling in Espinal v. Melville Snow Contractors. In Espinal, the plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against a snow removal company that entered into a contract with the property owner to remove snow and ice. The plaintiff claimed that the third-party contractor negligently removed the ice, resulting in the plaintiff's injuries.
Looking at previous case law, the court found that there were limited situations where a third-party contractor could be held liable for injuries on the property. Liability may exist where:
- The third-party contractor failed "to exercise reasonable care in the performance of his duties" and "launch[es] a force or instrument of harm."
- "The plaintiff detrimentally relies on the continued performance of the contracting party's duties."
- The third-party contractor "has entirely displaced the other party's duty to safely maintain the premises."
In Espinal, the court affirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the claim against the third-party contractor, finding that the plaintiff did not detrimentally rely on Melville's snow removal and that Melville had not entirely displaced the property owner's duty to clear snow and ice under its contract.
Experienced Premises Liability Attorney
I am Ira M. Maurer, an experienced personal injury and contractor claims attorney serving the New York City Metro area. With more than three decades of experience, I have won more than 1,000 cases, and I am proud of my success in many cases that are cited by attorneys and courts as precedent for other legal decisions.