The full article written by Dennis C. Valet, Esq. has been published in The Suffolk Lawyer and can be found here.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Court of Appeals Clarifies Trivial Defect Doctrine
The Court of Appeals in Beltz v. City of Yonkers effectively established the Trivial Defect Doctrine in 1895, a staple in the modern defense attorney’s playbook. Therein, the court recognized that no walkway could be kept so perfectly safe so as to preclude the possibility of an accident and accordingly held that “when … the defect is so slight that no careful or prudent man would reasonably anticipate any danger from its existence … the question of defendant’s responsibility is one of law.” Perhaps shocking to a modern practitioner, the Beltz court found that a two and a half inch deep, 26 inch long and seven inch wide depression in a sidewalk was not an actionable defect. Ever since, New York courts have struggled to define when a defect in a walkway is actionable.