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Who Is Responsible for a Sinkhole on an NYC Sidewalk?

December 22, 2020
sinkhole ny

The Gothamist reports that in late October, a man walking in the Bronx fell 15 feet below the ground when the sidewalk gave way. FDNY personnel rushed to the scene and performed a technical rescue to retrieve the fallen man. A bystander said he was waiting for a bus along with the victim when, after loaning the victim a lighter, he suddenly fell through the sidewalk. The 33-year-old victim was taken to St. Barnabas, where he was pronounced in stable condition. With everything we’ve been dealing with as a nation, state, and city in 2020, it now seems that sinkholes may also be a concern. If you’ve been injured in any kind of accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you shouldn’t wait to consult with an experienced NYC personal injury attorney.

The Accident Site

Inspectors from the Department of Buildings found that the sidewalk vault was in a decrepit state, and it issued the adjacent building a full vacate order. This closed down a dentistry office that was operating on the main floor, but the rest of the five-story building was already unoccupied. The owner of the building, a realty business, was instructed to install a construction fence around the sinkhole for safety purposes, and a building department spokesperson said the building would be monitored for compliance. The five-story building was listed for sale about a year ago for $9 million.

Sinkholes and Responsibility

Property owners are responsible for maintaining those sidewalks that are adjacent to their buildings in a reasonably safe condition, including being responsible for:

  • Installing the sidewalks
  • Constructing the sidewalks
  • Reconstructing the sidewalks
  • Repairing the sidewalks
  • Repaving the sidewalks

If the building owners were aware of a problem with the sidewalk at the location – or should have been aware of a problem – they likely share liability for the accident in question. The city, however, is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that supports its sidewalk systems, and it is very likely to also shoulder significant responsibility in this sinkhole accident. For the sidewalk to get to the point that it completely gave way, it’s almost certain that both the city and the property owners failed on multiple levels to live up to their duty of care in the matter. 

More Typical Sidewalk Accidents

Most sidewalk-related accidents are far less dramatic – but remain quite dangerous. Such accidents are often slip and fall accidents that are caused by uneven, cracked, broken, or sloping sidewalks and that are generally the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced New York City Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a poorly maintained or otherwise dangerous sidewalk, the dedicated personal injury attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman – proudly serving NYC for many decades – have an impressive track record of helping clients like you successfully recover on their full array of physical, financial, and emotional damages. Our firm is one of the oldest and most well respected in the city, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 212-285-3300 for more information today.


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