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Is It Foreseeable That A Missing Light Bulb Will Cause the NYPD To Shoot You

Last week, in the Daily News, it was reported that inadequate lighting in the staircase may have contributed to the shooting at the Pink Houses stairwell where Officer Peter Liang shot Akai Gurley.  Apparently, there were no lights that were working in the stairwell when the accident occurred.  This is a code violation.  Indeed, Administrative Code of the City of New York § 27-2039(b) and Multiple Dwelling Law § 37 requires that all lights in such buildings be in working order.  If the lights are not working, and the landlord has notice (or should have known) they were not working, liability may lie where somebody falls down the stairs.  Of course, the darkness must have played a role.  Generally, it would appear foreseeable that a fall down a flight of stairs would occur when the lights were not walking.  

The case Green v. New York City Hous. Auth., 7 A.D.3d 287, 288, 776 N.Y.S.2d 52, 53 (App. Div. 2004) is a case that is directly on point.  In that case, the plaintiff was hurt because of allegedly lights that didnt work.    

The issue then in this case would be whether Akai gurley would have a claim against the landlord for the fact that he was shot because the lights were not working and the police officer apparently was spooked and fired his service gun.  This is a case of first impression and it would appear difficult to argue that it was indeed foreseeable that a police officer might shoot you by accident in a dark stairwell.  Then again, given the apparent rampant crime there, maybe a court would consider it foreseeable.

This does present an interesting legal issue, although in the context of a tragic accident.  Obviously, nobody in this case wins with the loss of a young man and the fact that the police officer made such a tragic mistake.  

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