A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Landlord Found Not Liable for Tenant Injury Due to Fall on Wet Grass

By on March 19, 2015 in Blog with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Carolyn Arroyave sued her landlord, defendant Quaker Village Apartments due to a fall on a pathway on a grassy hill. In Arroyave v. Quaker Village Apartments, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 276 (App. Div 2015), the plaintiff contended that her landlord breached its duty of care owed to her by failing to warn of the danger of walking over the grassy hill. In this appeal, the plaintiff claimed that the trial court should not have dismissed her complaint by summary judgment.

Arroyave left her apartment at 4:00 am to deliver newspapers, walked up a grassy hill to the upper parking lot, and parked her car in the upper parking lot for her return. She was injured when she slipped and fell walking from the lot to the apartment on the grassy hill. She broke her ankle in three places.

Plaintiff often parked in the upper lot because that was closest to her apartment. There was a sidewalk to the lot but she chose to walk on the grassy hill because the sidewalk was a longer walk. The sidewalk had a lot of steps that were uneven and had no railings and would often fill up with water. Also at least six of the steps were extremely uneven, or broken. Water would accumulated on the sidewalk after a rainfall.

As for the grassy pathway, there was a path worn into the grass as a result of residents walking over the route she took on the day of the accident. In fact, the landlord encouraged residents to use that route by shoveling snow there in the winter.

Plaintiff claimed that the landlord breached a duty to her to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and that duty extended to the route she took over the grassy hill. However, the only aspect of the hill she identified as dangerous was that the grass was wet and long. She contended that the landlord should have warned her of the danger. As for the sidewalk, because plaintiff conceded that she did not walk on the sidewalk, its condition was irrelevant to her claim.

The Appellate Division agreed with the trial court and found that the landlord owed no duty to the plaintiff to warn her not to walk on the grass. The court found  “[t]hat grass is slippery when wet is a matter of common knowledge.” Thus, it would not be fair to impose a duty upon the landlord to require it to warn residents about the condition of the grass.

As for the grass being long, it was cut weekly and was cut two days after the accident. Thus, the court also found that the length of the grass did not constitute a dangerous condition or evidence that the landlord breached a duty to maintain the area in a reasonably safe condition. Hence, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of her claim.


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 30 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 2020-2023, 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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