Lack of Handrail Cited in Denial of Summary Judgment to Defendant in Stair-Fall Personal Injury Case

In Bencebi v. Baywood Realty, LLC, a stairway-fall personal injury case, the Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the lower court’s order granting summary for defendant. That is, plaintiff’s case continues to trial.

Here are the facts:

[Plaintiff sued] to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained by her when she fell while descending an interior stairway within premises owned by the defendant and improved with a multiple dwelling. [P]laintiff asserted that she was at the premises visiting a friend in the basement of the building, when she fell down the interior stairway. The plaintiff contended that she slipped and fell because of poor lighting and the lack of a handrail.

In support of its motion, defendant cited the plaintiff’s deposition testimony in which she testified that, “as she was descending the stairs, she took one step with her right foot and ‘slipped,’ and that she ‘went to grab on, to try to hold [herself but] there was nothing to grab onto so [she] went all the way down.'” It was undisputed that the stairs did not have a handrail.

In determining that the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment, the court reasoned:

[D]efendant failed to establish its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, as its submissions failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact as to whether a handrail was statutorily required at the location where the plaintiff fell (see Multiple Dwelling Law § 52; Administrative Code of City of New York § 27-375; 2010 Building Code of NY State § 1009.10, as incorporated by 19 NYCRR 1221.1[a], [b][.] Moreover, the plaintiff’s deposition testimony, which was submitted by the defendant in support of its motion, revealed the existence of a triable issue of fact as to whether the lack of a handrail was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

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