Watering Sidewalk + Marble Floor + No Mats = Continuation of Slip/Fall Case

In DiVetri v. ABM Janitorial Services (decided July 24, 2014) the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment. In this personal injury case, plaintiff slipped and fell on water she tracked onto the marble lobby floor of a building she entered. The water came from a hose being used by defendant’s employee to clean the sidewalk outside the building. Notably, there were no mats in the lobby.

In permitting the case to continue, the court held:

[A] jury could reasonably conclude that the defendants created a dangerous condition in the course of cleaning the sidewalk by hosing down the perimeter of the building without taking precautions to keep water from being tracked onto the marble lobby floor. Slippery conditions created by defendants in the course of cleaning a premises can give rise to liability. Tracked-in water that creates a slippery floor can be a dangerous condition. While reasonable care does not require an owner to completely cover a lobby floor with mats to prevent injury from tracked-in water, it may require the placement of at least some mats. Since there is evidence supporting a conclusion that there were no mats on the floor near the entrance, there is an issue for the jury concerning whether the defendants exercised reasonable care, including whether they took reasonable precautions against foreseeable risks of an accident while cleaning the sidewalk during a busy work morning.

It rejected defendants’ argument that the water on the sidewalk was “open and obvious”, reasoning that “[a]n open and obvious condition relieves the owner of a duty to warn about the danger, but not of the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.”