Getting a Recovery for Injuries from a Broken Sidewalk; Manhole Covers, Grates, and Vaults

In sidewalk accidents there is always the central issue as to who is liable. 

When tripping on a defective sidewalk near a manhole cover, grating, or sidewalk vault, who is liable?

Is it the City?  Or is it the adjoining property owner?  Or another party?  E.g., Con Ed, New York City Transit Authority, or Cablevision?

The answer is the owner of the vault,  manhole, or grating.  

The owner of the manhole cover, vault, or grate is responsible for the area of twelve inches outward from the perimeter of the cover or grating.  See Rules of the City of New York Department of Transportation, 34 RCNY 2-07 (b)(2).

A recent case, Storper v. Kobe Club, held that the owner of a vault cover, the MTA, could not shift liability to the adjoining premises owner.  The Appellate Division stated that the the MTA and premises owner would not be concurrently liable and that the MTA could not shift or share liability with the abutting property owner.

 If you have been injured in a sidewalk accident, please feel free to call us for a free consultation at 800-581-1434 or write to

Mark E. Seitelman, 10/10/10 (revised 11/11/10),


4 Responses to Getting a Recovery for Injuries from a Broken Sidewalk; Manhole Covers, Grates, and Vaults

  1. Hey Mark –

    A buddy and I were looking for answers to a question regarding the “12 inch” rule and stumbled across your post.

    According to a recent 1st Department decision, there is no concurrent liability! Only the manhole owner is liable. See Storker v. Kobe Club, 76 A.D.3d 426, (2010). This decision probably came out after your wrote this piece.

    In any case, thanks for the informative post…the blog looks great!

    Hope all is well with you.


    • Marshall, you are correct. The post has been changed to reflect the Storper case.

      The rule is that there is no concurrent liability between the owner of the manhole and the abutting premises. Liability would fall on the manhole owner alone.

      Thanks for your positive comments.

  2. Van Harris says:

    I was injured by a exploding manhole cover on Staten Island, New York.

    My injuries were serious resulting in a lumbar fusion.

    Although I am disabled my attorney advised me that there was no prior written notice on the manhole cover. Therefore, I may not have a case. Is this is a common accurance in NY? If you can help me Mark please reply.

    • Notice can be an important factor in this case as well as any case.

      However, you should review your case with another attorney to secure a second opinion. The attorney needs to review the facts and investigation. This blog is not a substitute for a consultation with an attorney.

      Good luck.

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