The Duties of Property Owners in New Jersey’s Winter Weather
In New Jersey, as in all states, a residential or commercial property owner has a duty to reasonably monitor and maintain the premises in a way that minimizes the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. How does that apply when a person slips and falls on a sidewalk, steps, or other thoroughfare due to accumulated snow or ice? What is the duty of a property owner or manager with respect to ice and snow?
Liability of Property Owners for Ice- or Snow-Related Slips-and-falls in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, to recover for slip-and-fall injuries caused by snow or ice, an injured person must show one of the following conditions:
- The property owner had knowledge of the dangerous condition but took no action to remedy it.
- The property owner should have had knowledge of the dangerous condition (a reasonable person would have) but did nothing to remedy it.
- The property owner had a legal obligation under New Jersey law either to remove snow and ice or reasonably warn others of its existence.
Residential Property vs. Commercial Property
In New Jersey, the rule governing slips, trips, and falls on snow or ice depends on whether the injury occurs on residential or commercial property. There’s no general rule that residential property owners or managers must remove snow or ice or provide a warning to visitors, provided the conditions occurred naturally. A residential property owner may be liable if his or her conduct caused the condition or made it worse. For example, if a property owner floods a portion of his property for a skating rink, and some of the water goes on the sidewalk and freezes, there may be liability if someone slips and falls on the icy sidewalk. Liability also may exist if a property owner attempts to remove snow but shovels it onto a thoroughfare where someone slips or trips on it.
Owners or managers of commercial property, on the other hand, generally have a legal duty to remove snow and ice if they have either actual knowledge of a dangerous condition or a reasonable expectation of such condition. Further, if a reasonable person would conclude, based on the circumstances, that a dangerous condition was foreseeable, then liability may exist even if the owner or manager lacks actual or constructive knowledge. For example, a business with a steep roof overhanging its entryway should probably consider it foreseeable that, in New Jersey, snow or ice would fall from the roof and create hazardous conditions on the entryway.
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