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“Landlords in the City of New York are required to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of their property within four hours after a storm has ended. Landlords who fail to do so are liable to pedestrians who slip and fall on the sidewalks in front of their buildings which have accumulated snow and ice.”

Such is not the rule in New Jersey, however.  New Jersey law allows municipalities to “make, amend, repeal and enforce ordinances to compel the owner or tenant of any lands abutting upon the public highways of the municipality, to remove all snow and ice from the abutting sidewalks and gutters of such highways within twelve hours of daylight after the same shall fall or be formed thereon”  N.J.S.A. 40:65-12. However, the Garden State continues to adhere to its oft-criticized commercial-residential dichotomy in imposing a duty in premises liability cases.  This approach has lead to inconsistent and sometimes inscrutable results which have led one commentator to remark that the insistence in New Jersey that potential liability hinge upon whether a particular property is “commercial” or “residential” has “made sidewalk liability the wild west of New Jersey tort law.”  Donald F. Burke, Jr., Slipping Through the Cracks: The Shoddy State of New Jersey Sidewalk Liability Law Cries Out for Repair, 36 Seton Hall Legis. J. 225, 248 (2012).

When property is classified as residential, the prevailing New Jersey rule is that the owner owes no legal duty to maintain the abutting sidewalk in a safe condition. If, however, the property in question is, as a matter of law, to be considered as commercial then the law imposes a duty on the owners to take reasonable steps to maintain abutting sidewalks. Simply, New Jersey, unlike the City of New York, eschews the rule that violation of a snow removal ordinance constitutes negligence, instead treating this merely as evidence of negligence.

Even if a person who falls on snow or ice can demonstrate that the property is “commercial,” the existence of a local snow removal ordinance does not necessarily render the property owner liable.  In Smith v. Young, 300 N.J. Super. 82 (App. Div. 1997), the New Jersey Appellate Division explained that:

It remains beyond peradventure “that municipal ordinances do not create a tort duty, as a matter of law.”  Brown v. St. VenatiusSch. 111 N.J. 325, 335 (1988). To hold that they do would be to misapply the general rule employed in Carrino [v. Novotny, 78 N.J. 355 (1979)]. For example, a plaintiff’s cause of action cannot be based upon the specific duty to remove snow and ice imposed by municipal ordinance enacted pursuant to the statute which empowers municipalities to require landowners or tenants “to remove all snow and ice … within twelve hours of daylight.”  N.J.S.A. 40:65-12. Rather, such a claim must be premised upon the classic general  duty of a possessor of land to make only reasonable uses of his property, “so as to cause no unreasonable risks of harm to others in the vicinity.” Prosser on Torts,  57 at 386 (5th ed. 1984). Since this general duty extends even to persons outside the premises, ibid., it may be taken to apply, as well, to persons on those portions of the property over which there is a public easement. Applying the statutory snow and ice removal standard in the limited manner employed inCarrino merely provides a plaintiff with a basis for establishing that the failure to remove snow and ice was unreasonable in the circumstances established and, therefore, negligent. See also Liptak [v. Frank, supra, 206 N.J.Super. 336 (App. Div. 1985)].

Where a case arises in a municipality which has adopted an ordinance pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:65-12, a properly situated plaintiff, see Hoagland v. Gomez, 290 N.J.Super. 550, 553-54 (App. Div. 1996), ought to have the benefit of the general rule of tort law that permits him or her to use the statutory standard as a basis for persuading the finder of fact that the defendant acted unreasonably in the circumstances. The Supreme Court’s articulation in its most recent case involving sidewalk liability, Brown,supra, 111 N.J. 325, may be taken to embody this idea. Brown ‘s emphatic exclusion of a rule-of-law approach, id. at 335, seems also to suggest that the evidence-of-negligence methodology may be appropriate. Smith v. Young, 300 N.J. Super. 82, 95-96 (App. Div. 1997).

 

I don’t want you to fall anywhere but if you do fall, I’d like for you to come talk to me as soon as you can. Call me at (732) 442-5900 during regular business hours or 1-800-RITELAW (800-748-3529) toll free. You can even call either number on weekends or after regular business hours. I have offices in  in Middlesex, Union, Essex and Hudson counties.

When you contact our office, we will immediately set up a free, confidential appointment where you will meet an attorney who will listen to you and evaluate your case.  We have conveniently located offices in Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Jersey City, Roselle and East Orange. We understand traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and other medical problems caused by accidents and the problems that they can cause in your daily life.  Our law firm will always work to make sure you are compensated fairly.

Whether you were a pedestrian, a bicyclist, the occupant of train, or car, motorcycle, boat or any motor vehicle, or have been hurt at an amusement park or at your workplace, bitten by a dog or injured in a fall down accident, you should immediately call one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at

THE LAW OFFICES OF KARIM ARZADI

(732) 442-5900, 21-COURTLAW (212) 687-8529, during regular business hours or 1-800-RITELAW (800-748-3529) toll free.  You can even call either number on weekends or after regular business hours. We have offices in MiddlesexUnionEssex and Hudson counties.  call us .

 

163 Market Street Perth Amboy, NJ 08861 Map →

103 Bayard Street New Brunswick, NJ 08901 Map →

639-41 St. Georges Avenue Roselle, NJ 07203 Map →

257 Central Avenue E. Orange, NJ 07018 Map →

2322 Kennedy Boulevard Jersey City, NJ 07304 Map →

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