News of the recent tragic death of Kasey Jones, who fell to her death as she tried to use a fire escape to re-enter her apartment, illustrates (perhaps ironically) the potential risks associated with these life-saving, and quintessentially New York City, building appendages.
A case recently decided by the Appellate Division, First Department, Lombardi v. Partnership 92 W., L.P., 2015 NY Slip Op 05258 (App. Div. 1st Dept. June 18, 2015), likewise involved a fire escape-related injury, albeit fortunately not resulting in death. There, the plaintiff claimed “that the drop-down ladder on defendants’ fire escape malfunctioned as he was descending to the street, causing his foot to be trapped and injuring him.”
Defendants moved for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s case. The Supreme Court denied that motion, and the appellate court affirms. Plaintiff’s case continues.
The court explained:
Defendants failed to make a prima facie showing of the absence of any defect in the fire escape, or that they lacked constructive notice of the alleged defect. Their manager and superintendent testified that they did not service or test the fire escape prior to plaintiff’s accident, and defendants did not produce any inspection reports (see Del Carmen Cuaya Coyotl v 2504 BPE Realty LLC, 114 AD3d 620 [1st Dept 2014]). Since defendants made no showing of inspections of the fire escape before the accident, they “failed to show lack of constructive notice as a matter of law, requiring denial of their motion regardless of the sufficiency of plaintiff’s opposing papers” (Showverer v Allerton Assoc., 306 AD2d 144 [1st Dept 2003]).
Furthermore, the court rejected defendants’ argument that “plaintiff’s use of the fire escape to exit an apartment in a nonemergency situation was unforeseeable and unreasonable”, finding that that argument “presents issues of fact for the jury.”
(Compare this case to Taveras v. Quisqueya II Housing Co., also involving a plaintiff injured while using a fire escape, in which the court granted defendants’ motions and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint.)
Law aside, and particularly in light of Ms. Jones’ tragic death, it is not a good idea to use a fire escape for any non-emergency purpose.