Late September 2023 saw the New York City Department of Buildings coordinating the removal of the crane that collapsed into a building on Manhattan’s West Side in July. This was not a welcome sight for drivers who needed to use the Lincoln Tunnel. In some cases, the nearby required street closures may have had a significant negative impact on individuals who had a pressing need to arrive on time at a critical meeting.
When Do I Have Grounds To Sue for Financial Damages?
You may have grounds to sue an individual, a business or a governmental entity if you could prove that one or more of them caused you to incur a significant and avoidable financial loss. The key element is proving that your loss was the result of another party’s negligence.
The acceptable grounds for filing a suit to recover damages can vary across different states. Because the New York City DOB falls under the laws of New York State, to recover financial damages you would need to prove four basic factors contributed to your loss:
- The party you intend to sue owed you a duty of care
- A breach of duty occurred
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused you harm
- The amount of harm caused is measurable and verifiable.
How Could I Show That the NYC DOB Owed Me a Duty of Care?
The reasonable person standard applies in New York. Proving that a duty of care exists generally involves showing what a reasonable and prudent person would do in a similar situation so that no harm occurs to others. This standard applies to businesses and government agencies as well as individuals. If avoidable harm occurs through a breach of duty, it may reflect physical, emotional or financial damage.
If you intend to recover damages, you may need to prove that the party you are suing did not act in a reasonable manner to protect you from harm or made no effort to warn you of possible harm. In the case of the NYC street closures, you may need to prove to the court that you were not able to plan an alternate travel route because the DOB made no reasonable effort to provide advance warning of the major travel delays.
How Might New York’s Comparative Negligence Standard Affect the Outcome of My Case?
New York follows the comparative negligence standard, which could have an effect on the amount of damage compensation awarded in a lawsuit. What this standard essentially means is that the court will compare and weigh the actions — or non-actions — of both the defendant and the plaintiff. If the court finds that you contributed in some way to bringing about the harm you suffered, the court could divide the responsibility for the harm caused between you and the party you’re suing.
If, for example, the jury finds that your actions reflected a 30 percent contribution to the harm caused, the court could then reduce your damage recovery award by an equal percentage. That means if you claim your loss is $300 million, the jury could reduce your award by $100 million.
How Might the NYC DOB Attempt To Defend Itself Against My Damage Claim?
As a defense against your claim, the NYC Department of Buildings might assert that any reasonable person would plan an alternate route when traveling to a critical business appointment in or close to New York City. If the DOB provided advance traffic alerts to the news media, it could also claim that you should have been paying attention to them. Because of New York’s comparative negligence standard, a defense strategy of this nature could help reduce the amount of the damage award.
The DOB’s legal team could also attempt to question the dollar amount of your loss. Perhaps you did not take reasonable steps to salvage the opportunity that a missed business appointment represented? The DOB might also attempt to show that you could not be certain that an on-time arrival would have enabled you to bring about the financial outcome you claim to have lost.
What Could I Do To Help Win a Suit Against the DOB?
Things could get complicated when your lawsuit involves a governmental entity covering affairs in a major metropolitan area. The NYC DOB has a fiscal budget of more than $320 million; you could find yourself up against a high-powered legal defense team. Give some serious consideration to obtaining legal representation that’s up for the task and has decades of experience handling cases involving New York City’s laws and procedures.
New Yorkers have placed their trust in the Celino Law Firm to handle their legal matters for more than half a century. Find out why; contact us 24/7 at 1-800-555-5555 to schedule a free case review.
Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.
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