Biker Injured Riding Off Elevated Boardwalk Without Guardrails

Was Village of Saltaire  Liable For Injuries From Fall?

Marcia Ferruzzi sued to recover damages for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when she rode a bicycle off an elevated boardwalk located in the Village of Saltaire and fell to the ground below. The boardwalk, which was reconstructed between 2014 and 2015 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, runs north to south from the bay to the ocean, and is approximately 2,100 feet long and 14 feet wide. Mario Posillico, the Village administrator and Village clerk, testified at his deposition that the boardwalk was constructed level, but the height differential between the boardwalk and the ground varied approximately 10 to 23 inches in certain locations due to the terrain. There were no guardrails along the sides of the boardwalk.

Ferruzzi testified at her deposition that, on the date of the accident, she and her then-boyfriend were riding bicycles on the boardwalk. Ferruzzi knew the boardwalk was elevated and the visibility that day was clear. They eventually came upon a firehouse, where they stopped so that her boyfriend could put air in the tires of his bicycle. Ferruzzi and her boyfriend then continued riding their bicycles along the boardwalk. A few minutes later, Ferruzzi rode her bicycle off the boardwalk. She explained that, as she was riding her bicycle, she was periodically looking to see if there was anyone next to her and, after glancing to her left, “the next thing I know I was going straight off.” Ferruzzi testified that, from the area of the firehouse to the location of the accident, the boardwalk was level and her bicycle did not hit anything that caused her to ride off the boardwalk.

The Village moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, contending that the condition of the boardwalk was open and obvious, and not inherently dangerous.  Supreme Court denied the motion. And the Village appealed.

A landowner has a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe manner. However, there is no duty to protect or warn against conditions that are open and obvious and not inherently dangerous. The owner must establish that a condition was both open and obvious and, as a matter of law, was not inherently dangerous.

Here, the evidence submitted by the Village in support of its motion, including a transcript of Ferruzzi’s deposition testimony and photographs of the accident site, demonstrated, prima facie, that the condition of the elevated boardwalk was both open and obvious, and not inherently dangerous. Ferruzzi’s testimony established that she was aware of the condition of the boardwalk, including that it was elevated, and that she had ridden her bicycle along the boardwalk without incident shortly prior to her accident. In opposition, Ferruzzi failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

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