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Legal loopholes offer NY drivers pothole protection

Pothole haters take heart. New York City's new pothole law, seen by some as a national model but described as "a national disaster" by critics, has two gaping loopholes.

So says an organization that at first may sound a little shady. But, in fact , the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Corporation is a nonprofit organization establishment by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

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Big Apple Pothole is promising to polish those loopholes to protect the public, according to attorney Sheridan Albert, Pothole's head.

The New York City pothole law, which takes effect June 3, gives the city immunity from lawsuits by people who have been injured by defects in the street if those defects have not been reported. And, the law further states that the city has 15 days to repair defects that have been reported.

The law was passed largely to cut back on the thousands of lawsuits the city faces every year.

"Persons who hurt themselves on city streets or damage their vehicles don't have any legal recourse unless someone had written the city about the pothole," Mr. Albert says.

But he hastens to add there are two ways, which Big Apple Pothole is spearheading, of evading the unfair law:

* The group has a small army of people who are scouring the city to report all potholes.

* With more and more potholes being on the record, the city will be under new pressure to fix them within 15 days or be liable.

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To make its services all the more appealing, the nonprofit corporation will sel computerized records of potholes' whereabouts to lawyers suing the city for clients who have had recent run-ins with potholes.

Hadley Gold, the city's first assistant corporation council, defends the new law as "ultimating benefiting" the public. He reasons that the law encourages people to be quicker to report potholes and the city to be quicker in mending them.

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