New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GRECU v. CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, #2006-016-074, Claim No. 109246


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2006-016-074
Claimant(s):
LUCRETIA GRECU
1 1.The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the City University of New York.
Claimant short name:
GRECU
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
109246
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant’s attorney:
Lucretia Grecu, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
by: Victor J. D’Angelo, AAG and Kathryn Mikk, Legal Intern
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 13, 2006
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
This is the decision following the trial of the claim of Lucretia Grecu that she slipped and fell on a patch of ice at Queens College of the City University of New York. On the morning of February 2, 2004, Ms. Grecu, a student at the college since 2001, testified that she had attended an 8 a.m. class in Powdermaker Hall;
[2]
and then after class, “walked out of the building . . . [and] I slipped on the ice. I hurt my left knee.”
[3]
The campus safety officer wrote in the Incident Report, “on inspection of said area, there was a patch of ice on the ground and B & G [Building & Grounds] was notified.”
[4]

The doorway by which Grecu exited is shown in photographs 1 and 2 of defendant’s exhibit A. It depicts multiple glass doors opening out to a landing and then down four steps to a walkway or plaza. Taken from outside, the photographs focus on the right portion of the exterior staircase, showing a handrail down the center and on the right. There may well be a railing on the left edge of the stairs, but that cannot be determined from the photographs.
Claimant had entered the building, which has eight entrances, by a different doorway than she left it following class. Grecu made it down the stairs and slipped on the concrete walkway (see def exh A, photo 3). Claimant was not holding the handrail because it “was too cold.” As to what Ms. Grecu observed of the condition of the stairs and ground level:
Q. When you were walking down the steps, you did not see any ice or snow on the steps. Is that correct?

A. No . . . I didn’t see it.
Q. Okay. And the platform area at ground level looked dry before you stepped on it?

A. Yes.
Q. And so it’s fair to say that the area where you fell looked dry?

A. Yes.
***
The City University of New York, like any property owner, has a duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition given the prevailing circumstances. Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 386 NYS2d 564 (1976). To recover, a claimant must prove that the condition was visible and apparent and had existed long enough for defendant to remedy it; “[a] property owner is not liable for an alleged hazard on its property involving snow or ice unless it created the defect, or had actual or constructive notice of its existence . . .” Murphy v 136 Northern Boulevard Associates, 304 AD2d 540, 757 NYS2d 582, 583 (2d Dept 2003) (citations omitted); Cody v DiLorenzo, 304 AD2d 705, 757 NYS2d 789 (2d Dept 2003).
Joseph Perry, who had been employed by City University for over 20 years, was serving as a laborer in the Buildings and Grounds Department at the time of the accident. On the witness stand, Mr. Perry was credible - - he was forthcoming with his testimony and explained his job and that of his unit without artifice. Perry testified that Buildings and Grounds had the responsibility for anything to do with the grounds at Queens College, from mowing the grass to snow removal. As for snowplowing and ice removal, the “laborers and the custodials” were responsible. His description of the operation in January of 2004 can be set out as follows:
- Roadways were plowed by teams of three pickup trucks and a garbage truck.

- Sidewalks and pathways were done by “a team of men that are on tractors.”

- Building steps and connecting pathways were the job of “a few men.”

- Entrances to buildings were cleared by a team of “custodials.”

- Finally, each building had a supervisor assigned to it “to check each building entrance to make sure about snow.”
Perry explained that the custodians (nine were assigned to Powdermaker) were responsible for removing snow and ice from the steps and six feet past the steps. The steps and surrounding area would be shoveled and then salted (although as for salting, Perry only directly mentioned the steps). When salt was spread, the crews started at 5 a.m. The witness testified that on the day in question he would have physically examined the areas that were salted. Powdermaker Hall is on the Quad (cl exh 7), and Perry was one of the employees responsible for plowing it.
Returning to Ms. Grecu’s testimony, she recalled that the day she fell was a sunny one, and could not specify the last time prior to February 2 it had snowed. Grecu said there was a few inches of snow on the sides of the path and walkways. She agreed that the pathways from the “bus stop towards the cafeteria had been cleared.” When asked if there was snow on the walkways themselves, claimant answered cautiously, “I don’t know. Everything seems almost cleared. They had . . . the roadways cleaned up.”
No weather records were submitted as to when it last snowed or if there were subsequent rain that might have frozen - - we have no temperature data. There was no record admitted into evidence of prior complaints or accidents as to the ice condition; no one saw this patch of ice until claimant’s fall. Such was the case in Murphy, supra, where the “plaintiff presented no evidence concerning the length of time the ice was on the ground before her fall, or whether the defendant received prior complaints about the condition.” 304 AD2d at 541, 757 NYS2d at 583.
While Ms. Grecu’s fall may have been unfortunate, the City University is not an insurer. Clairmont v State of New York, 277 AD2d 767, 716 NYS2d 760 (3d Dept 2000), lv denied 96 NY2d 704, 723 NYS2d 131 (2001). Nor was there any showing that in the process of clearing snow and ice, defendant created or exacerbated a dangerous condition. See Richer v State of New York, 31 AD3d 943, 819 NYS2d 173 (3d Dept 2006). Claimant cites a number of cases in her Post Trial Memorandum on this issue, but they involved the adequacy of the record for the purposes of motion practice. The cases include Jablons v Peak Health Club, Inc., 19 AD3d 369, 796 NYS2d 174 (2d Dept 2005); Karalic v City of New York, 307 AD2d 254; 762 NYS2d 271 (2d Dept 2003); and Cody, supra.
Defendant had a satisfactory snow and ice removal plan laid out in detail by Joseph Perry. Perry credibly affirmed that such procedures were in place on February 2, 2004 and there had been no prior complaints about the steps or the surrounding area in this regard; to this trier of fact, claimant has not met her burden that defendant varied from the plan.
***
In view of the foregoing, Lucretia Grecu has failed to prove her case by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence, and claim no. 109246 is dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY



November 13, 2006
New York, New York

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




[2]. Claimant’s exhibit 7 is a map of the Queens College Campus. Powdermaker Hall is located on the Quad in the left center of the map.

[3]. Claimant’s testimony apparently reads that her class concluded at 8:50 a.m, and she then left the building and had her accident; the Incident Report gives the time of Grecu’s fall as 9:20 a.m. (cl exh 1).

[4]. At the beginning of her testimony, Ms. Grecu described the condition as “black ice,” but did not do so again. It was not so characterized in the Comments section of the Incident Report by the officer who inspected the spot. Nor did claimant tell the officer: “Aided stated that while exiting Powdermaker Hall, she fell on a thin sheet of ice. . . ” (Cl exh 1).