Storm in Progress

Takeaway This case illustrates the “storm-in-progress” doctrine where a property owner is “not required to provide a constant, ongoing remedy for an alleged slippery condition caused by moisture tracked indoors during a storm,” but it must take “reasonable measures to remedy a hazardous condition.” As we head into winter and possible snow accumulation (even in the face of climate change) boards must make sure that building staff takes all reasonable affirmative steps to maintain the building, including assigning staff to cover the public areas with mats, continually mop up any moisture on the floor, put wet-floor notices in affected areas, assign someone to continually monitor the affected areas, and keep written assignment and progress notes in the logbooks. I would add: Assign staff to offer to assist disabled and elderly persons to traverse areas of possible danger.



What Happened  In February 2021 New York City had 14 inches of snow and the staff at Two Ten West 77 Condominium had placed mats in the lobby and in front of the elevators as part of the condo’s protocol in inclement weather. There is a sliding door that separates the lobby from the elevator bank, and about two feet of the marble floor underneath the sliding door remained uncovered by a mat. In addition to laying down mats, the building staff mopped the floor when they saw it become slick. These precautions didn’t help Betsy Hart, however. She was new to the condo, having recently rented an apartment from a unit owner, and stepped out to do some shopping at the neighboring Fairway. When she returned to the condo around 12:30 in the afternoon, she entered the lobby, walked to the elevators, slipped on the two feet of the exposed marble floor, and fell on her back, with her right leg twisted underneath. As a result of the fall Ms. Hart broke her right ankle in three places and had surgery that placed two plates and ten screws in it. In November 2021 Ms. Hart sued the condominium and its managing agent for negligence.

In Court Both the condo and its managing agent moved for summary judgment to dismiss the negligence complaint against them. They argued that reasonable precautions were taken to keep the premises safe during the ongoing snowstorm, they lacked actual or constructive notice that the floor was wet at the time that Ms. Hart fell, and that because the managing agent did not have exclusive control of the building it could not be held liable for failure to act. The court disagreed. It stated that the condo did not take reasonable steps to remedy the hazardous condition and said a jury trial would determine its conduct. The complaint against the managing agent was dismissed because it did not employ the building staff. The condo has filed an appeal. COUNSEL for Betsy Hart EDWARD STEINBERG, DANIELA HENRIQUES, ERIC LOVE Leav & Steinberg/ for the condo and management company CHAD SJOQUIST, ELIZABETH OREN Sjoquist Law Offices/ Judge Lori S. Sattler