Premises Liability in Personal Injury Cases

Adel Hanna v. Woodland Cmty. Ass’n

Docket No. A-0277-21

Decided November 17, 2022

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal of an Order granting summary judgment to all defendants pursuant to the “ongoing storm rule”.

Plaintiff fell in the parking lot of the Woodland condominium complex in January 2017. Woodland Community Association owns the property and the property is managed by Diversified Property Management (“DPM”). Woodland contracted with A. Guzzo Landscaping, LLC to provide snow and ice removal services. Plaintiff was a resident of the community and fell while walking through snow to his daughter’s house also located in the community.

The trial court relied almost exclusively on a recent New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in in which it adopted the “ongoing storm rule” when it granted all defendants summary judgment. In Pareja v. Princeton Int’l Props., 246 N.J. 546 (2021), the Supreme Court of New Jersey determined that “commercial landowners do not have a duty to remove the accumulation of snow and ice until the conclusion of the storm.” In this case, there were two snow storms on back-to-back days. On the first day, there was only about an inch of snow on the ground and most of it melted away during the day. On the second day, snow fell for most of the day, with an accumulation of snow reaching about seven inches. Plaintiff fell within an hour after the snow stopped falling. Guzzo Landscaping plowed the Woodland Condo parking lot during the day, but the parking lot in which plaintiff slipped had not yet been plowed yet. The plaintiff’s allegation was that the area where he slipped was covered in ice left from the night before that was covered by that day’s snow. The trial court found that because plaintiff fell within an hour after the snow stopped falling on the second day, the defendants did not owe him a duty pursuant to the ongoing storm rule. Plaintiff subsequently appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff contended that the trial court erred in finding the ongoing storm rule applies to this case, and, even if it does, genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment as to whether he fell on ice from a pre-existing storm. Plaintiff also argued the trial court erred in sua sponte determining his expert report was not credible and amounted to a net opinion

The Appellate Court of New Jersey affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment as to A. Guzzo Landscaping, LLC, but reversed the summary judgment granted to Woodland Community Association and Diversified Property Management because a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether plaintiff fell on ice from a previous storm, an exception to the ongoing storm rule. Regarding Guzzo’s liability the court determined that plaintiff’s argument that the ongoing storm rule does not apply because he fell after the snow had concluded did not hold water because under Pareja, the ongoing storm rule suspends a landowner’s duty “until a reasonable time after the cessation of precipitation” and said the landowner’s duty arises “within a reasonable time after the storm.” Therefore, landowners do not need to have all snow and ice cleared the moment snow stops falling.

However, regarding Woodland Community Association and Diversified Property Management’s liability, the court had to determine pursuant to the pre-existing risk exception to the ongoing storm rule whether any facts viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff could support a finding the first snow storm actually created a pre-existing risk. The court found that the trial court abused its discretion in finding plaintiff’ experts offered net opinions as to pre-existing conditions. The court stated that the ice plaintiff observed could have formed before the second day of the snow storm, imposing a duty on Woodland and DMP to address and mitigate ice accumulation. Since there was a genuine issue of material fact when that ice formed, summary judgment was reversed as to Woodland and DMP.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed matter pertaining to premises liability in personal injury cases. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the plaintiff in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town 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.




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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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