The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, in this slip and fall case, determined there were questions of fact about whether: (1) a sidewalk grate belonged to the abutting landowner (11 Madison) or the utility (Con Ed); and (2) whether the installation of the grate by the prior owner of the property constituted a special use of the sidewalk:
The record does not demonstrate conclusively that the owner of the sidewalk vault grate on which plaintiff Marie Saez allegedly tripped was defendant Con Ed, rather than the 11 Madison defendants, who owned the property abutting the sidewalk where the grate was located. There is an affidavit by the president of defendant Sapir Realty Management Corp. averring that the grates were already installed when the 11 Madison defendants acquired the property in 2003 and that the 11 Madison defendants had never been advised by Con Ed that they had any responsibility for maintaining the grates over Con Ed’s utility vaults or presented with any plans concerning the grates. There is also evidence that the 11 Madison defendants’ predecessor in interest had purchased and installed the non-standard vault gratings, and there is a note on the plot plan for the vault construction stating that this entity was to “supply, install and maintain” the non-standard gratings it had requested. As issues of fact exist whether Con Ed or the 11 Madison defendants owned the gratings, it cannot be concluded that Con Ed was responsible for maintaining the gratings and the area around them in safe condition … .
Issues of fact also exist as to whether the 11 Madison defendants’ predecessor’s installation of the non-standard vault grates constitutes a special use of the sidewalk by these defendants. Although there is evidence that they had no access to the grates and the vault, the evidence is not conclusive. Moreover, there is evidence that the transformers in the vaults provided electrical service solely to their property … . Saez v Sapir Realty Mgt. Corp., 2020 NY Slip Op 03863, First Dept 7-9-20