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Patton v. New York City Housing Authority, 2016 NY Slip Op 05226 (1st Dept., 6-30-2016)

In Patton v. New York City Housing Authority, 2016 NY Slip Op 05226 (1st Dept., 6-30-2016) plaintiff was attacked by two men (unmasked) who robbed him and stabbed him in his abdomen before fleeing. The assault took place in January 2011, at 11:30AM, on the 9th floor as he stepped out of the elevator of a New York City Housing Authority building located at 365 Ford Street, Bronx, New York, which is part of the Twin Parks West Housing Development.

Plaintiff, who resided at the building for over 25 years, had never seen his attackers at any other time besides on the date of the assault. He did not recognize the attackers as tenants of the building. Plaintiff testified that earlier on the same date of the attack, when he used the front door to his building, he saw that the door was broken. He did not need to use a key to open the door. He stated the door had been broken for approximately two months before the assault. He verbally complained about the broken door to the management office. He testified the lock to the front door was never fixed from the time he made his verbal complaint to the management office until the time of the assault. Plaintiff presented an affidavit from an expert witness, and presented crime statistics from the New York City Police Department and newspaper articles.

The trial court granted New York City Housing Authority’s motion to dismiss and opined: “Plaintiff has failed to submit any proof other than mere speculation that the intruders who accosted him entered the premises by means of the alleged broken door at issue.”

The decision was appealed, and the First Department reversed, writing: “In this action alleging negligent premises security, NYCHA met its prima facie burden of demonstrating that the assailants’ identities remain unknown and that it could not be established that they were intruders who gained access to the building due to the broken door locks (see Smith v New York City Hous. Auth., 130 AD3d 427 [1st Dept 2015]). In opposition, however, plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact by presenting evidence from which intruder status may be inferred. Specifically, plaintiff, who lived in the building for more than 25 years, did not recognize his assailants who did not conceal their faces (see Romero v Twin Parks Southeast Houses, Inc., 70 AD3d 484 [1st Dept 2010]; Esteves v City of New York, 44 AD3d 538 [1st Dept 2007]; Perez v New York City Hous. Auth., 294 AD2d 279 [1st Dept 2002]).”