New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LINK v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-052, Claim No. 102548


Synopsis


Claim in which it was alleged that claimant tripped and fell in a Department of Motor Vehicles office was dismissed as it was found that there was no dangerous condition.

Case Information

UID:
2002-016-052
Claimant(s):
MARGARET LINK The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the State of New York.
Claimant short name:
LINK
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the State of New York.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
102548
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Margolis & Flanary LLPBy: Gregory J. Volpe, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: John M. Shields, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 23, 2002
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
This is the decision on liability of the claim of Margaret Link, which arose from her trip and fall at an office of the Department of Motor Vehicles. At trial, Ms. Link testified and called to the stand Alice Hepburn, a DMV employee. In addition, the deposition testimony of a former
employee of the office was submitted, Anna Paterson (cl exh 6).
Around noon or just after on March 17, 1999, claimant, accompanied by her teenage son, went to the Department's office in Riverhead for the purpose of registering a car. They parked in the lot and walked through the entrance used by the public to the one-story brick building (cl exh 2 ). Link went to the information desk, was given a number, proceeded to take a seat on one of the benches, had a short wait until called, accomplished her intended business and after also filling out a change-of-address form, turned to leave.

Public access to the Riverhead DMV building was via two sets of double doors enclosing a vestibule, which separated the incoming and outgoing foot traffic (cl exhs 1 and 4). Two thin mats, described by Anna Paterson as runners,
were laid down in the vestibule between the doors in each direction (cl exh 6 at p 9). Link's son was ahead of her, and as she got to the interior right door which was open:
I stepped over the saddle with my left leg and my right foot, the toe part of my sneaker, went under the rug and I . . . I fell forward . . . I just went down completely . . . There was no way I could stop myself . . . I fell completely forward . . . Because the rug didn't give I just went flying forward.

It was undisputed that the amount of lighting was sufficient and not a factor in the subject accident; and that the weather was good and no moisture had been tracked in.
On her case, claimant submitted five photographs (cl exhs 1 - 5); one of which shows the public entrance as seen mid-distance from the parking lot (cl exh 2). The other four depict the vestibule from various vantages. Claimant at trial stated that these pictures show things the way they were on the day she fell. Alice Hepburn, the second-in-charge at the DMV office, agreed that the photos were a fair and accurate depiction of the way the vestibule looked at the time, as did Paterson in her deposition (cl exh 6, pp 10-11). Paterson, after the accident, said, "I observed the rug was in place and taped down as it had always been" (
id. at p 26). According to her, there was never a problem with the "carpet coming up at the place where the carpet meets the interior vestibule doors" (id. at p 42).
Claimant's exhibit 5 is a tight shot of the open right inside door Link took to exit, showing the edge of the mat perhaps five or six inches from the saddle onto which the door closes. The mat is thin and grayish in color. Between one-half and two-thirds of the length of the edge parallel to the saddle is covered with or taped down with gray duct tape, the taping beginning from the corner of the mat on Ms. Link's left as she exited through the doorway. In the middle of this untaped portion, on the mat's border, Link at trial placed a red "X" to mark the spot where her toe slipped under the rug.

This photo as well as others of the vestibule (cl exhs 1, 3 and 4) show the untaped portion smoothly lying on the floor. There is no opening, buckling or irregularity.
This was not a dangerous condition; there is no credible showing that the accident situs was not reasonably safe (see PJI 2:90 & 2:225). Nor was any credible evidence adduced to demonstrate that the mat represented a snare or trap to the unsuspecting.
The facts in the cases submitted by claimant are easily distinguishable from what the vestibule photographs here show.
In Sigue v Chemical Bank, 284 AD2d 246, 727 NYS2d 86, 87 (1st Dept 2001), the plaintiff testified that the "tape fastening the plastic mat to the ramp on which she fell was worn, had holes in it, was always turning over and was otherwise in a ‘deplorable condition' for a month prior to the accident." The other cases from claimant involve a rubber mat that was torn (Bernstein v Red Apple Supermarkets, 227 AD2d 264, 642 NYS2d 303 [1st Dept 1996][1]) and the "ripples" of a health club's carpeted indoor running track (Rivera v Jack LaLanne Fitness Centers, Inc., 269 AD2d 228, 229, 702 NYS2d 302, 303 [1st Dept 2000]). No such condition or defect was present here. In fact, the following exchange took place when claimant was on the stand:
Q. When leaving that day, [you] didn't notice anything out of the ordinary . . . with regard to the mat? A. I didn't think I had to.

Q [You] didn't notice anything wrong with it as you were leaving? A. No.


Moreover, there had been no prior similar accidents (
Zuppardo v State of New York, 186 AD2d 561, 588 NYS2d 401 [2d Dept 1992]), and no evidence of any complaints that the carpet was dangerous. Granted, Hepburn testified that a renovation of the entire office, mats included, had been completed in April of 1998. Nor does claimant offer any evidence, via an expert or otherwise, to show that the nature and positioning of the mat - - for example, the short, uncovered space between saddle and mat, violated any standard or practice. Browne v Big V Supermarkets Inc., 188 AD2d 798, 591 NYS2d 223 (3d Dept 1992).
* * *
In view of the foregoing, the claim of Margaret Link (no. 102548) is hereby
dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

May 23, 2002
New York, New York

HON. ALAN C. MARIN
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] Lv app dismissed 89 NY2d 961, 655 NYS2d 881 (1997), rearg denied 89 NY2d 1030, 658 NYS2d 245 (1997).