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New Jersey Sidewalk Fall Accident – Residential versus Commercial Owners

When it comes to differentiating between residential and commercial property owners, New Jersey sidewalk fall accident law is quite complex as compared to Pennsylvania law. Under NJ accident law, commercial property owners are liable for negligence which leads to a sidewalk fall accident like a trip and fall or slip and fall accident. However, residential property owners are generally not liable for sidewalk fall accidents unless there was active misconduct on the part of the residential property owner.

By contrast, in Pennsylvania, both commercial and residential property owners may be held liable for negligence which leads to a sidewalk fall accident. The key under PA accident law is whether the accident was foreseeable, i.e., should the property owner have anticipated the accident?

More: Common Injuries Sustained In A Pennsylvania Slip And Fall Accident

A Brief Summary of NJ Sidewalk Fall Accident Law – The Distinction Between Commercial and Residential Property Owners

In Stewart v. 104 Wallace Street (1981), the NJ Supreme Court held that a commercial property owner could be liable for fall accidents which occur on public sidewalks that abut the property. However, the court specifically cautioned that its holding did not apply to residential properties. Since that case, multiple cases pertaining to sidewalk liability have been decided, and none of them extended liability to residential owners. For example, see:

  • Dupree v. City of Clifton (2003) where the NJ Supreme Court discussed the distinction between commercial and residential property owners;
  • Nash v. Lerner (1999) where the court refused to allow an injured pedestrian to sue a private residential homeowner; and
  • Brown v. Saint Venantius School (1988) which found that a private parochial school was not a residential property and therefore could be sued for negligence leading to an icy sidewalk fall accident.

Then, in 2011, the NJ Supreme Court again explained the differences between residential and commercial property owners. See Luchejko v. Hoboken. In that case, the plaintiff was walking to work when he slipped on a patch of ice on a sidewalk abutting a large condo complex in Hoboken, NJ. He broke his leg and brought a lawsuit against the condo owner, property management company, snow/ice contractor, and the City of Hoboken. His case against the condo owner, property management company and City was dismissed. On appeal, the NJ Supreme Court reconsidered whether a condo owner could be held liable. It ruled against the injured pedestrian-plaintiff:

“Residential homeowners can safely rely on the fact that they will not be liable unless they create or exacerbate a dangerous sidewalk condition; commercial owners, defined in reference to their use of the property and its capacity to generate income, know that clearing their abutting sidewalks is a cost of doing business and that failure to do so can lead to liability.”

If you or a loved one was injured in a sidewalk fall accident in NJ, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation: 877.944.8396.

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