In New York State Courts, the Plaintiff, or the person that is suing for money damages, has the burden of proof, meaning that the New York plaintiff must present evidence establishing that he or she is entitled to recover compensation from the defendant. Conversely, the defendant has no legal obligation to prove or disprove anything. The burden of proof in a New York civil case, which is a lawsuit for monetary damages, such as in a motor vehicle accident, or trip and fall accident, or in a case of medical malpractice, or injuries from an animal bite, to use some examples, is “a preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of evidence is defined as evidence establishing that it is slightly more likely than not that the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
In New York, in order to win a case when you are injured in a slip/trip and fall accident, the most important factor is proving “Notice.” Notice is the legal term which means knowledge by the defendant supermarket, shopping mall, department store, other place of business, or municipality, that a particular dangerous condition existed for a period of time, and the failure of that business owner or municipality to repair that condition despite their prior knowledge.
There are two basic types of Notice which can be proven in a dangerous premises case in New York. The first is “Actual Notice.” Actual Notice is defined as knowledge which was provided to the defendant by informing them before the accident by way of a writing or conversation, that the dangerous condition existed and needed to be repaired. For example, in a Bronx trip and fall accident, before a case can be brought against the Bronx municipality, you must prove that they were warned of the broken section of the sidewalk and failed to make repairs. This is the reason that fall down accidents are so difficult to prove against municipalities–What are the chances that someone actually wrote a letter to a municipality before your accident informing the municipality that the sidewalk was cracked or not level? One advantage that we have in prosecuting cases against the 5 boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island, is the Big Apple Pothole Corporation. Essentially, what Big Apple does is chart every sidewalk in the city for defects, and then send maps to the City of New York of these specific defects, which can then be used in court to legally prove notice. Unfortunately, Big Apple’s reach does not extend past the five boroughs into the suburbs or rural New York to protect the victims of municipal negligence there.