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Black wooden paragraphSeveral state and local laws, including Civil Practice Law and Rules §9804 and New York Town Law §65-a, provide that no civil action shall be maintained against a municipality for damages or injuries to a person unless written notice of the defect, unsafe dangerous or obstructive condition is given to the municipality. New York General Municipal Law §50-e(4) authorizes such written notice requirement only if there are defects, unsafe or dangerous conditions in the following six enumerated locations: (1) streets; (2) highways; (3) bridges; (4) culverts; (5) sidewalks; or (6) crosswalks. As will be discussed below, the New York Court of Appeals has progressively expanded the prior written notice protections to areas that serve the same “functional purpose” as the enumerated locations.

In a 1994 case, Walker v. Town of Hempstead, the plaintiff sued the town to recover for injuries sustained after a fall on a municipal paddleball court at a beach area, and the town claimed that it had not been given prior written notice of any defective condition of the paddleball court as required by Hempstead, N.Y., Code §6-2. 84 N.Y.2d 360 (1994). The court held that to the extent Hempstead, N.Y., Code §6-2 required prior notice of defect for locations other than those enumerated in N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law §50-e(4), the code section was beyond the town’s supersession authority, and the absence of a prior written notice of a defect could not be a defense.

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