New York City Rules Regarding Liability for Injuries Incurred on City Sidewalks

Client Advisory

September 26, 2003

September 15, 2003, a new law went into effect that shifts responsibility for damage or injuries caused by sidewalk conditions from the City of New York to real property owners.[1] Under the new law, property owners have a duty to maintain abutting sidewalks (including intersection quadrants for corner properties) in a reasonably safe condition and shall be liable for property damage or personal injuries caused by any failure to do so.  The City is absolved of liability for damage or injuries caused by the failure of an owner to comply with this obligation.  Failure to maintain a sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition includes “the negligent failure to install, construct, reconstruct, repave, repair or replace defective sidewalk flags and the negligent failure to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk.”  The new law does not apply to one, two or three-family residential properties that are, in whole or in part, owner-occupied and used exclusively for residential purposes.

Owners must carry personal injury and property damage liability insurance covering injuries to property or personal injury, including death, caused by the failure to maintain abutting sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition. The City is exempted from liability for any damage or injury, including death, resulting from an owner’s failure to comply with this requirement.

The City may make payments to injured individuals where an uninsured owner fails to satisfy a judgment within one year following its entry.  Before making the payment, the City Comptroller must determine that the uninsured owner does not have the means to satisfy the judgment and must also consult with the City Corporation Counsel.  Payments may not exceed uncompensated medical expenses.  In addition, no payment for any unsatisfied judgment may exceed $50,000 and the total of all payments for all unsatisfied judgments in any fiscal year may not exceed $4,000,000.

Petitions for payment must be brought within three years following the entry of a judgment in the office of the county clerk of the county in which the real property is located. Each petition must include evidence demonstrating that efforts to collect the judgment have been pursued and that the judgment debtor has no policy of liability insurance or other assets to satisfy the judgment.

The petitioner must assign the judgment to the City. After assignment, the City is entitled to enforce the judgment. To the extent that the City collects money on the judgment in excess of the payment or payments made to a petitioner, the excess must be paid to the petitioner after deducting the City’s expenses.


[1] The new law adds sections 7-210, 7-211 and 7-212 to the Administrative Code of the City of New York.  Other rules regarding the repair and maintenance of City sidewalk can be found in the Administrative Code of the City of New York. For example, Section 16-123 requires any person in charge of a building, such as an owner or tenant, to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk.  Section 19-152 provides that the owner of any real property must, at his or her own cost and expense, “install, construct, repave, reconstruct and repair the sidewalk in front of or abutting such property, including but not limited to the intersection quadrant for corner property.”  Section 19-152 also requires the property owner to bear the cost for repairing the sidewalk abutting his or her property if the sidewalk is deemed a hazard and any of a number of enumerated “substantial defects” exist.  The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is empowered to issue an order to the property owner to perform the necessary sidewalk repair work.  DOT may perform the work or contract to have the work done.  However, the cost to DOT, together with permissible administrative expenses, becomes a debt recoverable from the owner by a lien on the property or otherwise.

Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP uses Client Advisories to inform clients and other interested parties of noteworthy issues, decisions and legislation which may affect them or their businesses. A Client Advisory does not constitute legal advice or an opinion. This document was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. © 2020 Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP.
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