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New York City Property Owners Cannot Delegate Responsibility for Sidewalk Maintenance

New York City Administrative Code § 7-210 provides that owners of certain real property in New York City have the duty to maintain City-owned sidewalks abutting their property in a reasonably safe condition, and are liable for personal injuries that are proximately caused by a failure to maintain the sidewalk. The law provides that “[f]ailure to maintain such sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition shall include, but not be limited to, the negligent failure to install, construct, reconstruct, repave, repair or replace defective sidewalk flags and the negligent failure to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk.”

The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, recently interpreted this provision as imposing a non-delegable duty of sidewalk maintenance on the property owner. Xiang Fu He v. Troon Management, Inc., 2019 N.Y. LEXIS 3023, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 7643 (Oct. 24, 2019). This means that the property owner may be found liable to an injured person even when the owner has leased the property to a third party, is out of possession, and relies on the tenant to maintain the sidewalk. In view of this decision, property owners should monitor to ensure that the sidewalks outside their properties are being properly maintained, should ensure that their lease agreements contain appropriate indemnification provisions and insurance requirements, and should also confirm that their own insurance protection is sufficient.