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Further Considerations For Establishing That A Stairwell Defect Is Trivial, And A Trap For The Unwary

January 29, 2013 • Posted By Joseph A. French • Trial Practice

The First Department recently gave further guidance as to what a party should consider in considering a slip and fall on stairs.  In Cassizzi v. Fordham University, 2012 NY Slip Op 09172, Justice Gonzalez had granted summary judgment to the defendant.  Plaintiff had fallen while descending stairs in one of the university’s buildings.  Photographs of the stairs along with plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit demonstrate to the court that the defect was “trivial”.  In short, plaintiff failed to provide evidence that the “defect presented a significant hazard, notwithstanding its minimal dimension, by reason of location, adverse weather or lighting conditions, or other circumstances giving it the characteristics of a trap or snare.” (citation omitted).  Thus, defense counsel should keep the above in mind when attacking a plaintiff’s case, and use these to establish that a defect is trivial and that it did not constitute a trap or snare.