City of New York May Be Held Liable In Bicycle Accident

Riding a bicycle can be a dangerous form of recreation in New York City. potholes, taxis, pedestrians, can all be hazards. One case our office is handling, involves a bicyclist that was severely injured when his front tire got jammed in the space between dangerously wide grate slats on the sidewalk. The sidewalk was narrowed by construction of the new Brooklyn sports arena, thus forcing the bicyclist to ride over the grates. Another bicycle case was in the news recently. Albert Somma was riding his bicycle late at night in Riverside Park while on his way home from work as a bartender. Coming to a fork in the path he was on, he decided to take a partially obstructed path, which soon became a dirt road with white lines and bike logos designating it as a bike path. Soon thereafter his front tire jammed into a ridge in a concrete like slab, and he was propelled forward, landing on his mouth. He was rendered a paraplegic, and subsequently sued the City of New York for Negligence. In the dark he failed to see signs saying the path was closed. The City moved to dismiss the claim, claiming that: 1) Mr. Somma was drunk at the time and was the proximate cause of his own accident; and that 2) The city did not have notice of the defect as required under the City of New York's Pothole Law. Justice Barbara Jaffe of the New York County Supreme Court held that neither the fact that the bicyclist was intoxicated nor that he chose the darkened path over a lit one prevented him from recovering under his lawsuit. She stated that "While a fact finder may reasonably determine that plaintiff's decision to ride his bicycle on the dirt path was reckless, unforeseeable or extraordinary, that determination may not be reached as a matter of law given the evidence that others had walked and ridden on it." Further, "although it was plaintiff's decision to proceed on the path, at night and after consuming alcohol, thereby creating an opportunity for his injury, it was the dangerous condition on the path that actually caused his injury, and no evidence was offered that he rode the bicycle in an unusual or reckless manner or that he strayed from the path." In regards to the City's claim that it did not have prior written notice of the defect as required by the New York City Pothole law, the court found that there was prior written notice because the area had previously been inspected by City employees and an inspection form filled out noting the defects. "A written statement showing that the City agency responsible for repairing a condition had first-hand knowledge both of the existence and the dangerous nature of the condition constitutes an "acknowledgment" sufficient to satisfy the Pothole Law." "Here, the path taken by plaintiff is clearly within the purview of the Pothole Law as a path within a park, which defendant is responsible for maintaining, and the Site Inspection Program forms constitute written acknowledgments by defendant of the existence and the dangerous nature of the condition." Thus the lawsuit will continue and the case should be decided by a jury. - Marc Miner, Esq. Zalman & Schnurman is a New York law firm that concentrates in personal injury actions such as construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, premises liability, trip and falls, slip and falls, snow and ice cases, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. Learn more at, or contact us at 1-800-LAWLINE, or 1-800-529-5463 New York City, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, Rockland County

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