City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo pleaded with members of the City Council last month to enact meaningful tort reform to help the city close what officials say will be a $6.4 billion budgetary gap by 2004.
Cardozo made a two-and-a-half hour presentation to the council's Transportation Committee in support of two bills intended to reduce the city's payout in legal costs related to slip-and-fall cases resulting from defective sidewalks. Intro 192 - commonly called the Big Apple bill - aims to provide the city with written notification of sidewalk defects, and Intro 193 - dubbed the Adjacent Landowner or Sidewalk Liability bill - seeks to make commercial and multifamily residential property and building owners liable if they fail to comply with existing law to repair and maintain sidewalks properly, as well as to remove snow and ice during winter months.
Cardozo stressed that the legislation was necessary because the city pays out more than $60 million annually in sidewalk case judgments and settlements, and shells out another $10 million in associated legal and back office costs as a result of the assorted claims, of which there are approximately 2,600 filed annually.
"At a time when everyone in the city is focused on how we close the city's budget gap without adversely affecting the quality of life, the council has before it Intro 193 that will save the city money and improve the quality of life," said Cardozo. The law today seems to encourage the wave of slip-and-fall cases that have been climbing since 1978, according to Cardozo.
"Today, if someone falls on a sidewalk as a result of a crack and the city has at least theoretical notice of that crack, the city is liable. You trip, you fall, you sue, you win. And that is true, even though the present administrative code provides that it is the obligation of the landlord to keep the sidewalk in good repair," Cardozo said.