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How Do I Sue the City If I Get Hurt on City Property?
September 21, 2012

There are special rules that apply when suing the City of Buffalo for personal injuries. One of these special rules requires prior written notice of defects before you can successfully bring a claim for personal injury. As with most rules there are some exceptions, including if city workers created the defect or where a ‘special use’ conferred a benefit to the city.

In the City of Buffalo, the applicable statute is section 21-2 of the Buffalo City Charter which states no civil lawsuits can be brought against the City “for damage or injuries to person or property sustained in consequence of any street, part or portion of any street including the curb thereof and any encumbrances thereon or attachments thereto, tree, bridge, viaduct, underpass, culvert, parkway or park approach, sidewalk or crosswalk, pedestrian walk or path, or traffic-control sign or signal, being defective, out of repair, unsafe, dangerous or obstructed, or in consequence of the existence or accumulation of snow or ice upon any street, bridge, viaduct, underpass, culvert, parkway or park approach, sidewalk or crosswalk, pedestrian walk or path, unless previous to the occurrence resulting in such damage or injuries written notice of such alleged condition relating to the particular place and location was actually given to the city clerk and there was a failure or neglect within a reasonable time thereafter to remedy or correct the alleged condition complained of.”

Although the statute outlines many hazard locations, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, recently held that the statute can be extended to include parking lots as well (Groninger v. Village of Mamaroneck, 17 N.Y.3d 125 [2011]).

Giving the City of Buffalo notice by calling the “311” number or telling just any employee is generally insufficient. Before the injury happens the City of Buffalo must receive notice in writing to the clerk that there was a problem, and time to fix it, before you can successfully bring a claim for injuries you suffered due to the defect.

Every case offers a unique set of facts, and although the special rule above applies in most cases, we encourage you to discuss your case with an attorney to be sure.

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