Picture this: there was a massive snowstorm this past week in New Jersey, and the cleanup has begun. You need to re-stock the supplies-bread, milk and eggs-that you used up during the storm, so you run out to the store. As you are walking down the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, you slip on an icy patch that was not treated with salt or properly cleared and you begin to fall towards the ground. You try to regain your balance, but you can’t, and you reach out with your arm to absorb some of the impact. As you hit the ground, arms first, you feel an intense, shooting pain and notice that, by the look of it, your wrist must be broken.
After you regain your composure and seek medical attention, you realize that you cannot afford the pay the bills required to properly treat your injury and you begin to wonder: just who was responsible for maintaining the sidewalk outside the store? Was it the town? Was it the store owner? Was it someone else?
The law in New Jersey is very clear about who is responsible: An owner of a commercial property is required to maintain a sidewalk that abuts their property in a safe condition, even if they do not own it. Stewart v. 104 Wallace Street, 87 N.J. 146 (1981). Our Courts have determined that because commercial establishments benefit greatly from the free access to their property by way of public sidewalks, this duty is a fair and reasonable requirement. Krug v. Warner, 28 N.J. 174 (1958).
Please stay safe as we ride out these last few weeks of winter and remember, if you were injured in an accident resulting from a poorly maintained sidewalk, you may be able to recover damages from an abutting commercial property owner. If you are a commercial property owner, your duty is clear: maintain your sidewalks in a safe condition.