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While injury accidents are often the result of careless or dangerous behavior, not every accident will serve as a basis for a claim for damages. It takes a well-educated and prudent New York injury attorney to help you decide whether or not to file a lawsuit based on your accident. In a recent case before the Supreme Court of Suffolk County, the court dismissed an accident victim’s claims against the County of Suffolk for injuries he received when walking through county courtroom doors.
On September 23, 2010, Plaintiff Salvatore Vederosa was walking into the Sixth District Courthouse in Patchogue when he became the victim of a door malfunction. The courthouse had two doors: an external door and internal door, with a small vestibule between them. As he pulled on the external door, someone in the vestibule opened the internal door, causing a suction effect. As a result, Vederosa’s hand was crushed between the door and exterior brick wall. Vederosa filed a lawsuit for his injuries against the County of Suffolk as well as the contractors who installed the door.
The owner of AES, the contractor that installed the door, testified that upon installation, the door worked as intended. He explained that when the County of Suffolk signed off on the work, the door did not make contact with the external wall. He also had never received notice of any problems or complaints about the door. The assistant director of the Department of Public Works, as well as the head of maintenance for the Sixth District Courthouse, each testified that they had never received complaints about the door prior to Vederosa’s accident, despite the fact that the door is used by 400-500 people every week. The head of maintenance had never seen the door make contact with the wall before the day of the accident, and testified that he tested the door and inspected the door on a weekly basis without noticing any problems. An expert hired by the County of Suffolk testified that the door appeared to work in an appropriate manner.
Personal injury claims based on a defendant’s negligence must meet certain requirements to qualify for money damages. One important requirement is that of notice. In order to be held liable for an injury accident, the defendant to a negligence lawsuit must have known about the defective condition before the plaintiff’s accident, or should have known about it, had they been acting reasonably. Without that notice, an owner cannot be expected to have prevented the harm and can’t be held responsible for resulting injuries. In other words, if a building was regularly inspected, maintained, and repaired, but a dangerous condition that had never caused an injury in the past was secretly present, then it is unlikely that the owner will be held responsible for resulting injuries.
In the case of Vederosa’s injuries, the court ruled that neither the contractor that installed the door nor the County of Suffolk could be held responsible for his injuries. The court concluded that neither party had received notice that the door posed a danger to visitors, nor that it required maintenance to be safe to use. Since they had performed regular inspections and tests of the door and received no complaints, they had no way to know that the door was capable of injuring visitors. Under the circumstances, there was no basis for the defendants to be held liable for Vederosa’s injuries. His claims were dismissed.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident in New York and want a no-cost assessment of whether you have a viable claim for damages, contact the dedicated and knowledgeable Manhattan personal injury attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes for a consultation at 212-889-9362, or in Queens at 718-777-5895.