New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SCHIOP v. THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, #2007-016-021, Claim No. 108521


Claimant failed to demonstrate that defendant had notice of a wet condition that caused her fall.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant’s attorney:
Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Weiner, David J. Kresman, Esq.
Defendant’s attorney:
Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney Generalby: Joseph L. Paterno, AAG
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 1, 2007
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is the decision following the trial of the claim of Gabriela Schiop that the defendant City University was negligently responsible for her fall at New York City Technical College, a senior college of the City University system located in downtown Brooklyn.

On the morning of September 5, 2002, Ms. Schiop, then a student at the College, was in the Namm Building on its campus. Claimant took the elevator down to the first floor of the building, intending to go to the cafeteria that was located there.

Schiop proceeded out of the elevator and walked down the hallway toward the cafeteria’s entrance. She described what happened next as follows:
I was going towards the cafeteria and my left - - my left foot – I was going with my left foot forward and my left foot landed in a substance and that caused my left foot to slide on the side and I fell on my knee, my left knee.
Schiop took the photograph that is claimant’s exhibit 1 in evidence, and marked in red the spot where she fell, i.e., in the hallway, a few feet outside the double-doored entrance to the cafeteria. Claimant recalled that she remained on the floor for “a few minutes,” and was helped up by two women, with whom she then went to the College’s security office. Schiop did not see what caused her fall until she got up from the floor, describing it as an “oily” substance that was “clear” and consisted of a patch of “two feet,” apparently meaning two feet square.

Claimant testified that after getting up, she looked around the area and inside the cafeteria “saw a maintenance person. He was mopping at the time.” Schiop had not seen him before she fell, testifying that he must have seen her fall, “[b]ecause he was very close to me and he looked right at me . . . it was impossible not to see me. I was very close to him.” Claimant testified that the man was about three feet away from her. However, the green mark she added to exhibit 1 indicates that he was a few feet inside the cafeteria, i.e., that the separation between claimant and the man was greater than she described it.

Schiop testified that the maintenance staffer, who had a yellow bucket on wheels, was mopping when she first saw him, and claimant also recalled seeing him pick up something from the floor which might have been paper. She added that there were no cones, warning signs or caution tape in the hallway to alert anyone that the floor was wet. Schiop indicated that the accident occurred at 10 a.m., and that she had been walking at a normal pace without hurrying and without distractions.

Claimant called to the stand Patrick Henry, the College’s administrative superintendent of buildings and grounds, who in September of 2002 held the position of principal custodial supervisor. Mr. Henry and Ms. Schiop were the only witnesses heard from at trial. In 2002, Mr. Henry’s unit at New York Technical College was responsible for general cleaning, including the mopping of floors. At the time, the College had a staff of 45 custodial assistants and seven custodial supervisors.

Henry explained that if, for example, a soda was dropped on the floor, a custodial assistant could clean it up right then and there; no call would be made to a supervisor, and no written record created. He explained that while a spill was being cleaned up (or about to be cleaned up), yellow “Wet Floor” signs were put down.
Claimant offered no credible proof as to how and when the floor came to be wet. Her implication that the hallway had just been mopped was unsupported by the evidence. Anyone coming out of the cafeteria could have sloshed a drink onto the floor, which might have happened just before claimant came along. Schiop did not explain how the maintenance man she saw inside the cafeteria would have, in such case, seen the spill in time to clean it up before claimant encountered it.

Henry testified that the entrance to the Namm Building cafeteria was a high traffic area traversed by many students, faculty and visitors. At the time of her accident, Schiop had been a student at New York Technical College for about a year and a half to two years. However, when asked if in that time, she had ever been in the cafeteria, her response was the inexplicable, “Probably,” which served to undermine her credibility.
The City University of New York has a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises, but it is not an insurer - - the fact that an accident occurred does not necessarily implicate liability on the part of the University. Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 386 NYS2d 564 (1976); Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719, 396 NYS2d 113 (4th Dept 1977). Claimant must show that a dangerous condition existed which caused her accident, and that defendant (if it did not create such) had notice which would have given it enough time to discover and remedy the condition.

The claimant bears the burden of proof; Ms. Schiop must establish her case by a fair preponderance of credible evidence, i.e., her case must be more persuasive than defendant’s. If the evidence on both sides weighs evenly so that the trier of fact cannot say that there is a preponderance favoring either side, claimant will have failed to prove her case.

Gabriela Schiop has failed to meet her burden, and her claim (no. 108521) is therefore dismissed. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

June 1, 2007
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims