Commercial Landlord Cleared of Duty To Remove Snow, Ice Before Storm Ends
June 3, 2019
TRENTON, NJ – May 29, 2019 – In a decision of interest to commercial landlords, a New Jersey appeals court has reaffirmed that they have no duty to clear a sidewalk abutting their property until the storm creating the accumulation stops.
The question in Abdalla v. Threegees t/a Monaco Arms, Inc., was how quickly a commercial landlord must remove snow and ice on sidewalks and walkways.
The court held on May 10 that the landlord in the case had no obligation to clear accumulations on an abutting sidewalk during an ice storm, only afterward. In Abdalla, the plaintiff sued his landlord after he fell on an icy walkway and fractured his arm.
The appeals panel relied on a 1983 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, Mirza v. Filmore Corp., which recognized the duty of commercial landlords to maintain, in reasonably good condition, sidewalks abutting their property. However, in determining how quickly landlords must act, the precedent also gave a landlord “who knows or should have known of the condition … a reasonable period of time thereafter” to return the sidewalk to a reasonably safe condition.
As a result, the appeals court declined to find the landlord negligent in Abdalla because the tenant had fallen after the freezing rain had turned to regular rain, but before the rainstorm had ended. The court found that the continuation of the storm did not provide the landlord with a reasonable period of time to remove the ice.
Thus, “while Abdalla recognizes that landlords indisputably have a duty to clear ice and snow from walkways adjacent to or within their property, they are not expected to catch snowflakes as they fall, nor remove snow or ice while a storm is in progress,” said Donna A. McBarron, of counsel withGiordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C. in Red Bank.
McBarron, who represents landlords and tenants in the negotiation of office, retail, industrial and ground leases, notes that nonetheless, landlords should be mindful of their duty to act in a reasonably prompt manner, for the safety and well-being of their tenants and invitees, once conditions creating the accumulation abate.
The ruling affirmed a decision in Bergen County Superior Court.
The appeals court ruling is available at https://njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/opinions/appellate/unpublished/a3591-17.pdf?c=HJW
About Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C.
Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C., with offices in Red Bank, Trenton, New York City and Bell Works/Holmdel, is a multi-specialty law firm dedicated to providing sophisticated, comprehensive legal services and solutions. It offers experienced representation in a broad spectrum of practice areas, including corporate and business; creditors' rights and bankruptcy; environmental; healthcare; intellectual property and technology; labor and employment; litigation; real estate, land use and development; trusts and estates; and energy. For more information, please visit www.ghclaw.com.
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