In perhaps the most thorough treatment of the theories of liability for a dangerous condition on a city sidewalk ever written, the Fourth Department explained the potential liability of the various abutting and “adjacent” property owners/tenants of the area where plaintiff slipped and fell. Only the discussion of the “special use” by tenants (Bison) of “adjacent property” is excerpted here:
“Where a sidewalk is adjacent to but not part of the area used as a driveway, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof on a motion for summary judgment of showing that the special use of the sidewalk contributed to the defect . . . However, if the defect is in the portion of the sidewalk used as a driveway, the abutting landowner, on a motion for summary judgment, bears the burden of establishing that he or she did nothing to either create the defective condition or cause the condition through the special use of the property as a driveway” … . The same principle applies to a commercial tenant of property where the driveway constitutes a special use by the tenant … .
While the area of the dangerous condition is in a City right-of-way that falls within the extended lot line boundaries of the property owned by Seneca One, we conclude that the Bison defendants, as lessors of the “adjacent property,” may nevertheless still be liable if there is evidence that they had “access to and ability to exercise control over the special use [driveway]” … . We conclude that the Bison defendants failed to establish as a matter of law that they lacked access to and the ability to control that special use driveway … and, further, failed to establish as a matter of law “that they did not affirmatively create the defect by any alleged special use of the sidewalk as a driveway” … . Indeed, based on the evidence submitted by the Bison defendants in support of their motion, it is reasonable to conclude that the “driveway apron was constructed and exclusively used for the benefit of [the Bison defendants’ leased] property” … . The only places that could be accessed by the driveway were the stadium and the surface parking lot, both of which were located on the property leased by Bison Baseball. We thus conclude that the court properly denied their motion seeking to dismiss the negligence claims asserted against the Bison defendants insofar as those claims were based on their special use of the driveway … . Capretto v City of Buffalo, 2015 NY Slip Op 00055, 4th Dept 1-2-15