A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Condo Association No Liability for Fall on Interior Sidewalk

By on February 18, 2014 in Blog with 0 Comments

With all the ice and snow this winter, condominium associations (and their insurers) that maintain interior sidewalks in their community will be breathing a sigh of relief that they have no liability for an injury from a fall on an icy patch on an interior sidewalk. In the unpublished Appellate Division decision, Qian v. Toll Brothers Inc., docket no. A-1352-12T2 (February 7, 2014), the court ruled that a condominium association could not be held responsible for a fall on an interior sidewalk abutting a privately owned street of the community.

The plaintiff lived in an adult residential community at the Villas at Cranbury Brook in Plainsboro. On the day of the accident, there was freezing rain and ice that accumulated on the sidewalks. Plaintiff and her husband decided to walk to the food market. On the way back, she fell on an icy patch of an interior sidewalk in the community directly in front of one of the homes.

The court noted the long line of cases holding that residential property owners have no duty to maintain public sidewalks. While commercial property owners have been held responsible to maintain public sidewalks, a judicial distinction drawn between residential and commercial property owners remained intact.

In the New Jersey Supreme Court case, Luchejko v. City of Hoboken, decided in 2011, the Court placed condominium owners on the residential side of this dichotomy for purposes of determining liability for a fall on an adjoining public sidewalk. The Court rejected the argument that a homeowner’s association was more like a commercial property owner in its responsibilities to the public.

In Qian, the plaintiff argued that Luchejko should not apply because she was injured while walking on a sidewalk located within the residential community, rather than on a sidewalk abutting a public roadway. Plaintiff argued that the defendant Association was responsible by both statute and its by laws to maintain all common areas of the property and collected a maintenance fee to do so, from which it purchased liability insurance.

The Appellate Division was not swayed by this argument, finding that a similar one had been presented in Luchejko and rejected by the Supreme Court. The plaintiff further tried to distinguish the interior sidewalks as different than public sidewalks. The court, however, also rejected this distinction because the interior sidewalks were used by the public and functioned just like a public sidewalk.

The court concluded by stating that if a private residential community is to be treated differently with respect to snow and ice removal on its interior sidewalks than abutting public sidewalks, it is up to the Supreme Court to make the appropriate distinction.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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