Do Commercial Property Owners Have a Duty in New Jersey to Remove Snow and Ice?
When driving in New Jersey’s winter weather, you can take all the necessary precautions and still be at risk of injury. You may need to go to the grocery store, the mall or the doctor’s office. When you get there, you discover that the parking lot or parking ramp hasn’t been plowed and is either covered with a few inches of snow or a layer of ice. Can the property owner be held responsible if you suffer injuries because of the presence of snow or ice, leading either to a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall?
The Duties of Commercial Property Owners in New Jersey Winter Weather
Under New Jersey law, anyone with control over or management of residential or commercial property owes a duty to take reasonable steps to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally visiting the property. That duty may be owed by an owner, landlord, tenant, or property manager. The duty requires that the person or entity with control over the property “reasonably” monitor the premises, so as to be aware of potential dangers.
The duty owed by a commercial landlord is different, depending on the legal status of the visitor:
- If the visitor is an “invitee,” expressly or impliedly invited onto the property for the benefit of the property owner, the highest duty applies—the person in control must use reasonable care to keep the property safe
- If the visitor is a “licensee,” entering the property for his or her own benefit, the person in control is only required to remedy or warn of conditions that the licensee would not reasonably have discovered
With respect to snow and ice, a commercial property owner in New Jersey can reasonably expect that both conditions will occur in the winter. Accordingly, there’s a duty to use reasonable care to respond to inclement weather and keep parking lots and ramps free of snow and ice. There is no requirement to ensure that lots and ramps are snow and ice-free. A commercial landlord or property owner may not be liable for rapid or heavy accumulations of snow or ice, if the actions taken in response to the weather have been reasonable. In fact, a recent ruling in the New Jersey Supreme Court absolves a commercial property owner from the responsibility to take responsive action while a weather event is in progress (until a snowstorm has ceased, for example). A commercial landlord will still be responsible for any prior accumulations of snow or ice.
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 injury, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton.
We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.