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Slips and Falls in Winter Weather the Duty of Property Owners in New Jersey

In New Jersey, as in every other state, owners and managers of residential and commercial property have a duty to maintain the property so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. The duty is not absolute, though—an owner/manager must take “reasonable” steps to both learn of potential safety risks and to either fix them or properly warn visitors of their presence. This concept is referred to as “premises liability.”

So what happens in winter in states like New Jersey, where snow and ice are an annual concern? A decision handed down by the New Jersey state appellate court last March sheds light on the state of the law governing such liability. In Zheng v. Santos, the plaintiff suffered an injury when she slipped and fell on the sidewalk in front of a three family apartment owned by the defendant. She filed a lawsuit, arguing that the defendant had a duty, under New Jersey premises liability law, to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk. The trial court found that there was no such duty under New Jersey law, and dismissed the complaint. The appellate court agreed, rejecting the injured woman’s appeal.

The court, in its opinion, found that New Jersey law does not impose liability on residential property owners for “naturally” occurring conditions, such as snow. There is, however, such a duty with respect to commercial property owners, as they seek to entice visitors for profit. In the Zheng case, the plaintiff argued that Santos was operating a commercial enterprise—apartments for rent. The appellate court disagreed, saying the principal “business” was residential, and that the defendant was not anticipating anyone other than tenants to visit the property.

Contact the New Jersey Slip and Fall Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr

At the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr, we have fought for the rights of personal injury victims in central New Jersey for more than four decades. We carefully choose the cases we handle, so that we can provide the highest levels of service and personal attention to each client. We are also happy to take over your case, if your first lawyer does not seem to have your best interests in mind.

To set us a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call our office at 732-537-8570.

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