Earlier in June, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a new opinion on snow removal. While it’s not going to have much of an impact this summer, New Jersey residents and businesses need to be ready for the new law to apply when the snow starts to fall again. It will have a big impact on the victims of wintertime slip and fall accidents.
Angel Alberto Pareja v. Princeton International Properties is a typical slip and fall case. Pareja, the plaintiff was walking to work when he slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk owned and managed by the defendant. He suffered a broken hip. At the time of the fall, it had been freezing rain and sleeting for hours.
Pareja’s lawsuit was quickly dismissed by the trial court because the winter storm was ongoing at the time of the accident. He appealed, and the appellate division reversed, holding that the property owners had a duty to keep their property safe no matter what the weather. The property owners appealed, and New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to take the case.
This is the first time since the 1980s the high court has taken up a commercial snow removal case, so the Levin & Malkin team suspected the court was going to do something big. We were right. In a 5-2 decision authored by Justice Fernandez-Vina, the court held that the “Ongoing Storm” doctrine now applies in New Jersey.
This means commercial property owners and managers do not have to clear their sidewalks of snow or ice while a winter storm is ongoing. Sidewalks must still be taken care of, but owners can wait until the storm has passed to start shoveling. They must clear the sidewalks within a reasonable amount of time after the storm ends.
This decision is not good news for New Jersey residents who cannot wait until winter storms have ended, and a reasonable amount of time has passed before they go about their business. The Levin & Malkin team is concerned that many more New Jerseyans are going to suffer slip and fall injuries in the coming years because of this ruling. We simply do not live in a world where people can just hunker down and refuse to go outside because it is snowing.
We are also concerned that people who are injured in wintertime slip and fall accidents will be incorrectly told they cannot seek compensation because of this new law. There are exceptions to the rule — such as when a commercial landlord creates an “unusual circumstance” that exacerbates the risk of injury to plaintiffs, or where there was a pre-existing risk on the premises before the storm — so it is critical that slip and fall victims seek out experienced legal representation and investigate whether they have a claim against the property owner even if it was snowing at the time of their accident.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, and are confused about who is responsible for paying your medical bills and lost wages, the Levin & Malkin team is here for you. We have won millions of dollars for accident victims in New Jersey and may be able to help you. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Posted in: Slip and Fall Accidents