Partner Gregory J. Irwin, With Associate Paul E. Kiel, Successful In Appellate Division Decision Regarding Sidewalk Liability.
In Ellis v. Hilton Methodist Church, et al, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a broken and uneven sidewalk abutting an abandoned church and sustained injuries. Plaintiff argued that the abandoned property had the potential to generate income and was not being used for religious or charitable purposes, therefore commercial landowner liability should attach. Mr. Kiel argued the appeal for the church and disputed that the church property was used for commercial purposes, so that no liability could attach. The Appellate Division agreed, and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal on summary judgment. The court noted that a landowner generally owed no duty of care to pedestrians for the condition of abutting sidewalks unless the property in question was commercial property. The appellate court acknowledged that liability could attach to property owned by a religious organization – if used for commercial purposes. However, the court found no evidence that defendants used their property for commercial purposes at any time prior to plaintiff’s accident and rejected plaintiff’s contention that the property potentially could be used for commercial purposes. The Appellate Division’s opinion was approved for publication.