What Are the Duties of a Property Owner with Respect to Accumulated Leaves?
It’s that time of year, when the leaves start changing colors and falling to the ground. It’s not uncommon to encounter large piles of accumulated leaves on sidewalks, driveways and on steps or porches. What are the responsibilities of homeowners or businesses in New Jersey regarding the pileup of leaves on walkways, thoroughfares and entryways?
The Standard of Reasonable Care
In New Jersey, all commercial and residential property owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of anyone legally on the premises. That duty can extend beyond owners, though, to anyone who has responsibility for maintaining the property. Accordingly, a tenant or even a property manager may have liability for injuries suffered on real property.
It’s important to understand that the duty does not require that the owner, property manager or tenant eliminate any risk of injury. There is no mandate that any potential injury be avoided. Instead, the party responsible for maintaining the premises must only take those measures that would be deemed reasonable.
The law governing personal injury does not establish a clear guideline for determining what will be considered reasonable. Instead, that assessment is made, on a case-by-case basis, by the trier of fact (typically the jury). Courts apply the doctrine of stare decisis (Latin for “let the decision stand”) to every case, requiring juries to give greater weight to prior decisions involving the same or similar fact situations, ensuring consistency in the law.
Accordingly, in the fall, a property owner will have a duty to take reasonable measures to minimize the risk of injury because of accumulated leaves. That may involve removing the leaves, warning potential visitors of the dangers, or redirecting pedestrians away from the known danger.
Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper
At the Law Offices of Howard D. Popper, we can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation to discuss your options after any type of slip and fall, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton.
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