Negligence of Landlord Causes Stairway Fall and Serious Injury

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Since the beginning of time, powerful forces have fought each other with innocent victims being caught in the middle. As trial lawyers, we at Finz & Finz, P.C., have seen first-hand how five thousand years of historical battles have been brought into a modern New York courtroom.

This is a compelling story…A powerful utility company collided with a powerful landlord, with our client, the victim being in the middle of their private battle.

The landlord, one of the largest developers of high rise buildings in New York City, operated the one in which our client was a tenant. Unbeknown to her or the hundreds of her tenant neighbors, there had been an ongoing dispute between the utility company and the landlord regarding bills that the utility company claimed were owed by the landlord. Conversely, the landlord argued that it was the utility company who in fact owed huge refunds to the landlord for overcharges. The building in which our client had an apartment on the twelfth floor was the subject of dispute.

Failing to pay the building’s utility bills for six months chargeable to the landlord, the utility company sent a team of men surreptitiously dressed as elevator repairmen into the building on a Friday night. Secretly, they made their way into the power room, disconnected all-electric lines, leaving the high rise building in total darkness. With no choice, the tenants had to walk up or down the staircases with flashlights or candles just to get to their apartments or out to the street.

Our client was a certified nurse assistant who at the time was caring for a patient living three floors below. Knowing that her patient needed assistance, particularly in the dark, our client entered the pitch-black stairway, and with a flashlight in hand started to walk down the three flights. Due to the darkness, brought in part by the negligence of the landlord who failed to pay the utility bills that were due, she missed a step, fell down a number of stairs and suffered a serious back injury.

The case could not be settled since the landlord denied it was negligent in failing to pay the utility bills that the utility company claimed were outstanding. The landlord was negligent in thinking only of its own self-interest and cared little about the victims who would be caught in the middle of its battle with the utility company (human nature hadn’t changed in five thousand years).

With neither defendant yielding, one of our senior trial attorneys tried the case to its conclusion. The jury deliberated for less than two hours. When they re-entered the courtroom, the foreman, (a self-employed carpenter who probably earned no more than five hundred dollars a week), got up, stood tall, looked around the courtroom and announced the verdict. “We the jury find for the plaintiff based upon the actions of the landlord whose negligence caused the stairway fall and serious injury to the plaintiff.” He hesitated, let out a whimsical smile in our direction, and continued, “In all, we find for the plaintiff against both defendants… in the sum of nine million dollars.”

Although the history of two Goliaths hadn’t changed, justice was at least done by the verdict holding for the most part that it was the initial negligence of the landlord who failed to pay the utility bill that ultimately caused the stairway fall and serious injury to our client.