Be Aware: Liability for Commercial Landowners and Duty to Maintain Adjacent Sidewalks
Docket No.: A-4761-18T2
Decided August 24, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffery Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division considered whether a commercial landowner had a duty to maintain sidewalk abutting and adjacent to its own sidewalk that cause plaintiff to fall and suffer injury.
In Bonefont, Plaintiff, fell tripped and fell on sidewalk in front of 3020 North Congress Road in Camden, a single family residence, when her destination was a row house at 3018 which was adjacent to 3020. 2018 was owned by defendant but leased to a tenant. Plaintiff sued defendant for failing to maintain the adjacent sidewalk leading up 3018, even though the sidewalk in question was outside the property lines of 3018.
Summary judgement was granted to defendant, ruling the defendant had no duty to maintain the sidewalk adjacent to the land. Plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Division reviewed liability for landowners when someone trips on sidewalk. Generally, a property owner in not subject to tort liability for the condition of a public sidewalk. Commercial landowners can be liable for sidewalk abutting their property when the abutting sidewalk when the abutting sidewalk benefits them economically. The Court must analyze the economic benefit of the abutting sidewalk against the landowner’s ability to control the risk of injury.
Furthermore, premises liability may extend beyond the premises for activities that directly benefit the landowner. These can include providing parking across the street, or heavy foot traffic crossing a dangerous roadway.
The decision to extend liability to an adjacent sidewalk for a commercial land owner is fact sensitive. In this matter, the Appellate Division found that no economic benefit existed for the owner of 3018 that was different from or in excess of the benefits imparted to the other property owners on the street. Therefore, no liability was found for 3018 to maintain the sidewalk of 3020.
This case is important for all personal injury plaintiffs. If you slip and fall on sidewalk, generally there is a principle that the landowner does not have a duty to maintain the sidewalk. However, commercial landowners, including landlords, might have a duty, and that duty might extend beyond their premises under the right circumstances. You could fall in front of an abandoned lot, but if you were leaving or going to a commercial establishment, you may be entitled to compensation.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a slip and fall, motor vehicle accident, truck crash, wrongful death, or other premises related injury, you need to make sure you contact a personal injury attorney with experience today. Failing to consider these issues could result in your case be dismissed permanently. Do not hesitate to contact Hark & Hark today to discuss your personal injury.
For personal injury matters, you pay nothing upfront, and our fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.