On January 3, 2019, the appellate court covering civil trials in Manhattan, overruled a trial judge who declined to throw out a jury verdict awarding $530,000 to a woman who fractured her ankle because of a fall on a staircase. The defendant premises owner operated a restaurant with a staircase. The plaintiff claimed she fell while descending the staircase because she didn't see the final step as a result of a design or construction flaw that created an optical illusion. This argument was premised on a claim that the final step was of a different color, size and material from the other steps. However, there was no expert testimony to support this theory. Prior to trial there was an Order issued that found the NYC Building Code which does address the dimensions of some staircases, was not applicable to the restaurant staircase.
The appellate court ordered a new trial because when the jury was deliberating, they sent a note to the Court asking if the restaurant staircase was "up to code". The appeals court held that based on the pre-trial Order: "Rather than responding that there was no evidence that the code was either violated or complied with, the jury should have been informed that the building code was not applicable to the staircase". Landau v Balbona Rest. Corp., 2019 NY Slip Op 00051