City defeats claim based on falling sign

Bus sign replaced about a month after it fell on a pedestrian in front of 246 West Houston Street. Image Credit: Google Maps

Pedestrian injured when bus stop sign fell from metal pole and struck him. On July 17, 2013, at around midnight, John T. Bunn was standing beside his parked car in front of 246 West Houston Street near a bus stop sign marked “W. Houston St & Varick St.” While standing at this location, the sign dislodged from its metal post, fell and struck Bunn in the head, causing him serious injuries.

Bunn sued the City. Bunn alleged that the sign was defective and that the City was responsible for the defect. The City moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was not liable for Bunn’s injuries because it did not have prior written notice of the defect. Bunn responded that prior written notice was unnecessary because the City affirmatively created the defect either when the City installed the sign seven months before the accident, or sometime thereafter during maintenance while the sign was within the City’s exclusive control. Supreme Court Justice Alexander M. Tisch granted the City’s motion and dismissed Bunn’s complaint. Bunn appealed.

The Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the dismissal of Bunn’s complaint and ruled that the City lacked prior written notice. The Appellate Division held that Bunn’s argument was speculative, and reasoned that the sign’s defect could have been caused by any number of factors not within the City’s exclusive control, such as vandalism or weather conditions.

Bunn v. City of New York, 180 A.D.3d 550 (1st Dep’t 2020).

By: Maya Addady (Maya is a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2020.)


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