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Court Dismisses Action Holding Sidewalk Vault Stairs Are Not ‘Interior Stairs’ Under Building Code

In a case of first impression, Farber Brocks & Zane recently obtained a dismissal of a personal injury lawsuit when the Court determined that an out-of-possession landlord is not liable for injuries sustained on cellar steps upon which the tenant installed a conveyor belt and which lead to a sidewalk vault, on the grounds that such steps are not “interior steps” under New York’s building code.   Under the building code, interior stairs are stairs within a building, that serve as a required exit.  Justice Sharon Aarons accepted the landowner’s argument that cellar stairs into vaults are commonly used for deliveries of merchandise rather than passage for people looking to exit a building and that it would be illogical to find that stairways leading from basements to locked doors in the sidewalk would serve as required exits.  The Court also accepted the landowner’s argument that the effective rearrangement of the staircase to a conveyer belt was neither a structural defect of the stairs, nor can an out-of-possession landlord be responsible for an accident solely due to the arrangement of a premises, absent a structural defect. Bautista v 85th Columbus Corp., 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5473; 2013 NY Slip Op 23402 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Bx. Cty. Nov. 26, 2013).