In March, two men fell through the second floor at the abandoned former Oki-Do oyster processing plant in East Marion, NY. They were trespassing on the property, walking on the second floor of the building when the floor gave way. They fell approximately 20 feet to the floor and sustained injuries.
Fast forward to June 1, 2017 and one of them has filed a notice of claim against the town, the county and the property owner. Vincent Inzone of Lake Ronkonkoma seeks to recover damages for “serious and severe personal injuries”. You’re probably thinking wait, he was trespassing, why on earth would he have a case? Well, it’s not an easy premise liability case, but you can’t just dismiss it either.
According to Neal Goldstein, partner at Goldstein and Bashner, “As in all negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care. As a trespasser, you must establish that your presence on the property was reasonably foreseeable. For example, if a property owner regularly sees trespassers on the property or sees evidence of them (e.g., trash left behind), then it may be reasonable for a person of ordinary intelligence to be aware of the presence of trespassers. If there are dangerous conditions on the property (e.g., a bridge in disrepair), the property owner has a duty to repair or warn of it.”
The owner did not give permission for the pair to be at the site. She says there is a fence and signs were posted. In 2007, the town ordered the property owner to make the building and the structures “safe for the public”. In the event this didn’t happen, the town was going to perform the work. Evidently, this never happened. The plaintiff’s claim states that the Town of Southold and Suffolk County “failed to enforce the premise’s owner to make such property safe to the public.”
One of the problems, according to the town, is that the fence installed by the property owner gets cut through. When the town discovers that, it contacts the owner to remedy it. The town feels that it is doing its job. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide who’s at fault. It serves as a reminder that even trespassers may seek damages if injured on your property… It doesn’t mean they will necessarily win, but who wants that headache and to take that chance…