Personal Injury And Wrongful Death Claim Against State Allowed To Proceed.

by Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC on August 8, 2011

in Buffalo Wrongful Death Issues

The region surrounding Buffalo includes several beautiful New York State parks and natural area.  While the public is encouraged to enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded by these parks and may be exposed to certain risks as a result, the State has an obligation to maintain these parks in a reasonably safe condition.  

The State owes the same duty of care to keep its property in reasonably safe condition in view of all of the circumstances as any private citizen. The scope of that duty varies depending upon the foreseeable harm.  As part of the State’s duty to keep its property reasonably safe, it has a duty to warn of a dangerous condition that is not open and obvious.

In Arsenault v. New York State, a family vacationing at Taughannock Falls State Park was struck by falling rocks.  The mother was killed in the rock fall, and the father and two infant children were injured.  Because there were several signs warning visitors not to approach the area where the rock fall occurred due to the potential for falling rocks, the State sought to have the case dismissed prior to trial based on the theory that it had provided adequate warning of the danger and, in any case, the danger was obvious.  The injured parties claimed they did not see the signs.

When hearing the case, the Court noted that whether the signage was adequate could not be determined as a matter of law and that the defendant’s own submissions confirmed that many people violated the warnings – calling into question their sufficiency.  As a result, the Court determined that a jury would have to weigh the facts and determine whether the warnings offered by the State were reasonable under the circumstances.

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