Trip and FallSection 7-201(c)(2) of the New York City Administrative Code, known as the “Pothole Law”, states that no civil action can be maintained against New York City for personal injury sustained as a result of a street (or sidewalk) being out of repair, unsafe, dangerous or obstructed, unless written notice of the condition was actually given to the City’s Commissioner of the Department of Transportation.
New York Courts, therefore, have held that prior written notice of the defect is a condition precedent which the injured person is required to plead and prove in order to maintain an action against New York City, and the failure to prove prior written notice will result in the dismissal of a plaintiff’s negligence suit against the City.
In New York City, the Big Apple Pothole Sidewalk Protection Corporation previously made notations on maps, commonly called the Big Apple Maps, which indicated potholes and defects on sidewalks. These maps were served on the City and were deemed to have provided written notice of the defect. However, with changes in the law requiring certain commercial property owners to maintain the sidewalks abutting their premises, Big Apple maps are no longer served upon the City. The prior written notice requirements to assert a claim against the City remain the same. As such, it may become more difficult to establish prior notice for City controlled sidewalks without the aid of the Big Apple maps.
Still, if there is no prior written notice, the courts have recognized two exceptions to the pothole law. In such a case, the injured person must prove that either the City actually created the defect through some affirmative act of negligence, or where a special use of the roadway by the City that confers a special benefit upon the City created the defect.
New York City Pothole law can be complex. It is, therefore, best to speak to an experienced New York City personal injury attorney to protect your interests and properly assert your claim.