Manhattan Judge Refuses to Dismiss Punitive Damages Claim Against Building Owner/Manager

On June 14, 2018, Justice Carol Robinson Edmead agreed that a jury or trial judge should decide whether the conduct of an owner/manager of a building on Lexington Avenue by 59th Street in Manhattan was so egregious and dangerous (to the general public) that would warrant punitive damages in addition to the usual compensatory damages. Basically, one morning in February 2014 a construction worker was walking on the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue when he was struck with snow and ice that slid off the defendant's building. The plaintiff's shoulder and neck were so severely injured that he required an arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and a cervical laminectomy with fusion, which have left him permanently disabled from working. The plaintiff pointed out that the design of the building facade was especially dangerous because snow and ice (then and now) routinely slides off the exterior downward sloping metal ledges underneath the glass windows on each floor.

The defendant's argued against punitive damages on the ground that they had never received a violation and that none of the prior victims of the falling snow and ice had sued them. Justice Edmead replied this defense was a red herring: "The evidence in this case shows that the falling ice was an immense problem for years, and that the Defendants allowed it to continue during that time, culminating in a number of people being hit with falling complaints of pedestrians being hit with snow and ice go back years." It was also noted that there was video evidence showing defendants employees viewing chunks of ice fall onto the sidewalk with their security cameras before the accident happened. They apparently did nothing to prevent the plaintiff's accident. Richards v Alexander's Inc., Vornado Realty, 2018 WL 2984971

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