Pedestrians in New York City have a busy enough time trying to avoid being struck by cars, bicycles, and other pedestrians, so when danger strikes from above it is the last thing they expect. Unfortunately objects can fall from above and cause serious injuries.
Whether the object falls a few feet or a hundred feet from above the same rules apply. It is the duty of the owner of a building, abutting upon a public street, to maintain it in such a condition that it shall not become dangerous to the traveling public. (Appel v. Muller, 262 NY 278). It is also the duty of a building owner or tenant in possession to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for all people on the property (Basso v. Miller 40 NY2d 233).
When an object falls from above and strikes a pedestrian it is easy to place blame when the reason for which the object fell is witnessed, or admitted. So, for example, if a construction manager observes materials being blown or accidentally dropped from a construction site, the contractor will be held liable for failing to secure the object. However, sometimes the reason that an object fell is unknown. In that case a pedestrian struck in the head (or elsewhere) by a falling object will often rely on the theory of res ipsa loquitur, which is a Latin term meaning "the thing speaks for itself". Simply put the argument is that the event would not have happened but for an act of negligence, thus by the happening of the event a jury can infer that their was negligence. In New York to prove a case under the theory of res ipsa loquitur, it must be shown that:
(1) the event must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; (2) it must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; (3) it must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff'(Corcoran v. Banner Super Market, Inc. 19 NY2d 425.) The theory has been applied in many falling object cases, including, for example: when a garage door suddenly fell and struck a pedestrian on the head (Hutchings v. Yuter, 108 AD3d 416); a barbecue grill displayed on a store shelf fell and hit a shopper (Fields v. King Kullen, 28 AD3d 513); a falling ceiling hit a commuter on a subway platform (Mejia v. NYCTA, 291 AD2d 225) ; boxes fell off of an overhead store riser hitting a customer (Durso v. Wal-Mart Stores, 270 A.D.2d 877); a painter was struck by a falling ceiling (Dittiger v. Isal Realty Corp, 290 NY 492); part of the stucco siding of a building fell and hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk (Stubbs v. 350 East Fordham Road, 117 AD3d 642); a 50 pound sandbag fell from an elevated train station and killed a pedestrian on the sidewalk (McCrae v. NYCTA, 123 AD3d 598); and glass fell from a window striking a pedestrian (Pearson v. Ehrich, 148 A.D. 680). If someone is struck by an object that falls from above the injured party is likely entitled to compensation. In New York a party may recover under a theory of res ipsa loquitur, or due to the known negligence of those responsible. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by a falling object, you should contact an experienced New York Personal Injury Lawyer. Zalman Schnurman & Miner are experienced NYC personal injury lawyers having represented persons struck by falling objects. For a free consultation contact 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463). All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee if there is no recovery.