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Ice, Ice Baby (NJ)

July 23, 2021

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In New Jersey, a plaintiff sought to recover after he slipped on ice, fell, and broke his hip. The night before the accident, it had been sleeting and raining, creating a hazardous condition. At the time of plaintiff’s fall, the conditions were still ongoing. Plaintiff’s expert stated that the defendant, a property manager, could have mitigated the dangerous and icy conditions had they pre-treated the sidewalk. In <em><a href="">Pareja</a> v. Princeton</em>, the Court had to evaluate the ongoing storm rule, which states that a landowner does not have a duty to remove snow or ice from public walkways until a reasonable time after the conditions improve. From a policy perspective, the premise of the rule stems from the fact that it is inexpedient and impractical to remove or reduce hazards resulting from snow and ice while the conditions persist.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Under the common law, case precedent specified that a commercial landowner in fact, did have an obligation to “maintain a reasonably good condition” concerning the sidewalks abutting their property and were “liable to pedestrians due to their (the landowner’s) negligence<em>” Stewart v. 104 Wallace St.</em>, Inc., 87 N.J. 146, 157 (1981). This was later extended to include the “removal or reduction of the hazard of snow and ice” <em>Mirza v. Filmore Corp.</em>, 92 N.J. 390, 400 (1983).</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">While there is a duty for commercial landowners to clear the hazardous conditions after they have been given “actual or constructive notice”, and subsequently fail to respond accordingly, the Court here declined to impose a duty that could not be reasonably carried out by all commercial landowners, due to the potential unfeasibility that clearing the conditions would introduce.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">After the New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification, they ruled that the Appellate Division erred in stating that defendant in this case had a duty of reasonable care to maintain the sidewalk upon which plaintiff fell while the conditions still existed. Furthermore, the two exceptions that exist under the ongoing storm rule which would impose a duty (if owner’s conduct increases the risk, or if the danger is pre-existing), do not apply here. They reversed the Appellate Court’s decision and stated the trial court was correct in granting summary judgment to defendant, citing that defendant only owed a duty of care to plaintiff under unusual circumstances, none of which existed here.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Haley Matthes for her contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.</p>


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