Municipal Claims in Parks

I was injured while watching my daughter’s softball game. A foul ball struck me and I needed to be hospitalized. Can I make a claim against the City?

Possibly. Municipal claims are always complicated with multiple levels of substantive rules and procedural rules that make it difficult to bring any case. There are different substantive rules for the location of an accident, whether it occurred on a street, sidewalk, public way or park. There are also complicated procedural rules for municipal claims. All claims must be made in writing within 90 days after the accident to the Comptroller or the Corporation Counsel on an approved form. Claimants must make themselves available for a municipal hearing (something like a deposition) and a physical examination. Then, a summons and complaint must be filed within one year and ninety days after the accident. (Some agencies have different requirements and shorter statute of limitations.)

In the case of your daughter’s softball game, it required some legal research, but it appears that you might have a case. Legal precedents are cases already decided by Courts. Courts write and publish written decisions to guide judges. Courts are obligated to decide cases which have similar facts to have a similar outcome. The legal term for this principal is called Stare Decisis. The difficulty was trying to find a decided case with similar facts to your case.

Your case depends upon where you were standing or sitting when the ball hit you. As it turns out, there was a court case with similar facts to your case. The municipality has a duty to maintain the screening in a park behind home plate. If you were behind home plate and there was no screening or the screening was poorly maintained (with holes so that the softball could pass through and strike fans), then you could have a municipal claim. See Starke v Smithtown, 155 AD2d 526 (2d Dept. 1989). If you were standing or sitting in foul territory down the first or third base lines, then the municipality has no obligation to protect fans.

Liability for Sidewalk in Need of Repair

If I fell on a cracked and raised sidewalk in front of someone’s house, can I make a claim for my injuries against the homeowner?

The answer to this question is no.  If you fell on a sidewalk in front of a one or two family house and not by a driveway, then the City of New York would be responsible for your injuries.  (The City is protected by a statute in such cases that requires prior written notice of the defect to the Department of Transportation. Without this written notice you may have no claim at all.) GML section 50-G and NYC Administrative Code section 7-201.

If you have a claim against the City of New York, there are special rules you must follow to make a claim such as filing a notice of claim within 90 days after your accident.  You might also have to attend a municipal hearing and a physical examination by a City doctor before you can file a law suit.  Claims against City also have a statute of limitations of one year and 90 days.

If you fell on a broken sidewalk in front a home’s driveway, then you might also have a claim against the homeowner as well.  But, there are other factors that a lawyer would consider such as the location of the crack near any utilities and storm drains on the street.  Each case is different.

If you fell in front of business or apartment building, then you would bring a claim against the owner of the adjacent commercial property.