Gallagher v. St. Raymond's Roman Catholic Church
21 N.Y.2d 554 (1968)
Court of Appeals of New York
For many years, the Senior Sodality of St. Raymond's Roman Catholic Church of East Rockaway
had been meeting in the parish school.
On Monday night, January 4, 1960, Gertrude Gallagher, then 60
years old, arrived to attend the weekly meeting of the Sodality.
She climbed the six steps to the landing in
front of the center door and entered the school.
The lights, which illuminated the exterior of the building,
Mrs. Gallagher left the Sodality at about 11:15 P.M.
When she stepped into the night air, she
found herself in the dark.
Someone had turned the lights off.
Remembering that there was a handrail on
the steps, Mrs. Gallagher started to move toward the handrail.
But she had forgotten that the landing or
platform onto which the door opened did not extend to the handrail.
As a result, in searching for the
handrail, she lost her footing and fell, injuring herself.
A jury returned a verdict in favor of the Gallaghers in the negligence action thereafter brought by
them to recover damages for the injuries sustained by Mrs. Gallagher.
Upon defendant's appeal, the
Appellate Division (Second Department) unanimously reversed but solely on the law, holding, in
accordance with established precedent (
McCabe v. Mackay
, 253 N.Y. 440;
Kiernan v. Roman Catholic
Church of St. John the Evangelist
, 11 A.D. 2d 997,
10 N.Y. 2d 853), that the defendant was under no
duty at common law to illuminate an exterior stairway "with artificial light, in the absence of defective
conditions, or conditions of peculiar danger, that may call for special warning". (
McCabe v. Mackay
., p. 442).
Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish