Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
31-2-9329 Ilg v. Meade, N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (13 pp.) Plaintiff Pietra Ilg instituted a suit against her neighbors, defendants Tom and Patricia Meade, for injuries she sustained when she fell on or about defendants’ property while walking to defendants’ home. Finding that plaintiff could not establish where she fell, and that defendants did not breach a legal duty to plaintiff, the Law Division judge granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff stated that defendants’ car was blocking the sidewalk, forcing her to walk around it, and causing her to slip and fall on snow and ice. Plaintiff was transported to the hospital, where she underwent surgery for a fractured wrist. Following plaintiff’s fall, the police instructed defendants to move the car that was blocking the sidewalk. In granting summary judgment to defendants, the court found that plaintiff was a social guest on defendants’ property and therefore defendants owed her only a limited duty of care. Plaintiff had visited defendants’ home earlier that day, and thus, the position of the car was obvious to her. Accordingly, the court found defendants had no duty to warn her of it. Plaintiff argued on appeal that defendants were negligent in knowingly blocking the public sidewalk with their vehicle, thus forcing her to walk on an icy area, where she slipped and fell. Plaintiff further argued that defendants owed a duty to warn her of the dangerous condition that caused her fall. The law in New Jersey is well-settled that a residential property owner is generally immune from liability for accidents resulting from naturally caused conditions of public sidewalks abutting the property. The trial court correctly determined the nature and purpose of their ownership to be primarily residential and not commercial, notwithstanding that one of the defendant homeowners worked from home. Plaintiff further argued that defendants’ car blocked the sidewalk, in violation of a local ordinance, and that this constituted further evidence of negligence. However, defendants were not charged with violating any such ordinance and, in any event, the breach of such ordinance did not render defendants liable to plaintiff. Under the circumstances, the danger plaintiff encountered was self-evident and, therefore, not actionable. The judge properly entered summary judgment for defendants.