A Capehart Scatchard Blog

NJ Supreme Court Rules that Landlord Not Responsible for Minor Burned on Apartment Unit’s Radiator

By on May 1, 2020 in Duty of Care with 0 Comments

On March 30, 2010, the minor, J.H., a 9 month old infant, was burned by an uncovered, free-standing cast iron loop radiator in an apartment owned and managed by defendants R&M Tagliareni, LLC and Robert & Maria Tagliareni. His bed was adjacent to a radiator that did not have a cover. His father discovered him the next morning with his head pressed against the hot radiator, which caused him to suffer burns on his head, right cheek, and left arm. The issue in J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198 (2019), was whether the owner/landlord defendants had a duty to cover an apartment’s radiator with insulating material and whether the defendants could be liable for the minor’s injuries.

On the trial court level, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, ruling that the defendants did not owe a common law duty to place a cover on the apartment’s radiator. The matter was appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the defendants maintained sufficient control over the heat from the radiator such that a duty of care was owed to J.H. as a guest staying in the apartment.  Additionally, the Court found that N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d)(a regulation that required heating systems to be covered under the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling law) imposed a duty of care upon defendants to prevent the radiator from burning the infant and that the duty was breached.

The matter was appealed further to the New Jersey Supreme Court by petition for certification. This Court, however, disagreed with the Appellate Division and found that this regulation concerning heating systems did not pertain to radiators. Because the tenants had exclusive control over the heat emanating from the radiator, the Court declined to impose a new duty upon landlords to cover all in-unit radiators. Hence, the Appellate Division ruling was reversed and the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendants was reinstated.

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Betsy G. Ramos

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.

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