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Maringer v. Hill

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

November 3, 1911

EMMA MARINGER, Respondent,
v.
HENRY L. HILL, Appellant.

APPEAL by the defendant, Henry L. Hill, from a judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiff, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of New York on the 23d day of December, 1910, upon the verdict of a jury for $1,500, and also from an order entered in said clerk's office on the 29th day of December, 1910, denying the defendant's motion for a new trial made upon the minutes.

COUNSEL

Theodore H. Lord, for the appellant.

Charles Goldzier [Moses H. Grossman with him on the brief], for the respondent.

LAUGHLIN, J.:

On the 29th day of September, 1908, the plaintiff and her husband were lessees of an apartment on the third floor of a

Page 721

five-story tenement house, having five apartments on each floor, at No. 940 East One Hundred and Sixty-fifth street, borough of the Bronx, New York, owned by the defendant; and at about seven minutes after six o'clock in the evening of that day, while starting from the upper landing to pass down the first flight of stairs, she slipped on a grape skin which was on the landing near the head of the stairs, and fell and sustained injuries, to recover for which this action was brought.

The negligence charged in the complaint is failure to light the public hall between sunset and sunrise, and to keep the stairs clean and free from accumulation of dirt, filth, garbage and other matter, as required by the provisions of chapter 334 of the Laws of 1901, known as the Tenement House Act.

The accident occurred after sunset, and the public hall was not lighted. The court properly submitted to the jury the questions with respect to the liability of the defendant for his failure to comply with the requirements of the law in that regard.

With respect to the liability of the defendant for the accident, if due to the presence of the grape skin on the landing near the head of the stairs, the court instructed the jury that the landlord was not expected to have some one in the house the entire time watching for any slight object that might drop on the stairway, but was expected to use such care as an ordinarily prudent person having charge of such a building would use, and that it was his duty to use reasonable care in inspecting the public stairs and floors, with a view to removing anything that might be deposited there, which would endanger the safety of people using the stairs.

The defendant had a janitress in charge of the building, whose duty it was to light the lights and keep the public stairs and floors clean as required by law. The janitress was called as a witness by the plaintiff. She testified that shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon of the day of the accident, on looking out through the window of her kitchen, she 'saw two little boys eating grapes and throwing the skins down coming down on the back stairs leading into the air shaft,' and that she thought that 'the children may have done the same thing down the stairs,' and so a few minutes afterwards she went up to the fourth floor and found and picked up grape skins

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all the way; that she picked up all that she saw, and that she intended to get a broom and sweep down the stairs to be sure of getting all the grape skins, but that she was interrupted by one of the tenants and she then forgot to do so; and that she swept down the stairs at the place where the accident occurred every morning. The plaintiff testified that after falling she looked and saw a squashed grape skin on the landing near the head of the stairs, and it is claimed that she slipped on that grape skin. A girl fourteen years of age, a daughter of one of the tenants of this building, called by the plaintiff, testified that 'after three o'clock, * * * about three o'clock' in the afternoon of the day of the accident, she and a girl friend were coming down the stairs, and that her girl friend was eating grapes and 'throwing down the skins.'

The court left it to the jury to determine whether or not the janitress picked up all the grape skins that were on the stairs and landing at the time to which her testimony relates, and also to determine whether or not, if plaintiff slipped on a grape skin dropped on the landing after the time the janitress picked up the grape skins, the defendant or his servants knew or should have known that the grape skin was there and was dangerous to a person passing up or down the stairs, and permitted the jury to predicate a verdict upon the negligence of the defendant with respect to the grape skin, regardless of the question of negligence with respect to lighting the hall. At the close of the charge counsel for the defendant requested the court to instruct the jury as follows: 'Negligence in this case cannot be predicated upon the presence of the grape skin on the stairway, on which it is alleged Mrs. Maringer slipped.' This request was denied, and an exception was duly ...


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