by: Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)
The facts and legal issues in sidewalk slip and fall cases sometimes read like they are pulled from law school final exams. In New Jersey, the baseline legal rule is clear — owners of commercial properties generally have a duty to maintain, in reasonably good condition, the sidewalks abutting their property, while owners of residential properties do not. But does a property owner have a duty to maintain its sidewalks when:
- the property is both residential and commercial, like a multi-family home where one unit is owner occupied and the others are rented (click here for more on that, but the short answer is that it depends on whether the property is primarily residential or primarily commercial ); or
- the plaintiff is a tenant and sues the landlord after slipping on a sidewalk outside the rental property (click here for more on that, but usually, yes); or
- the property is a commercial property, final judgment of foreclosure has been entered in favor of the lender, but no sheriff's sale has been scheduled (click here for more on that, but if the lender can be considered a mortgagee in possession, then yes); or
- the property is owned by a condominium or common-interest community (click here for more, but generally, yes if it's a private sidewalk within the condominium, no if it's a public sidewalk abutting the condominium); or
- the property is residential and the fall is caused by sweetgum spikey seed pods that fell from a tree on the defendant's property (click here, but, no).
And now one more can be added to the list thanks to the Appellate Division's decision is Ellis v. Hilton United Methodist Church, where the question presented was whether "sidewalk liability applies to an owner of a vacant church."
Continue reading “New Jersey Court Answers The Burning Question: Can I Sue The Owner Of An Abandoned Church If I Slip And Fall On The Sidewalk Outside The Church?” →
by: Peter J. Gallagher
A Texas man has moved into a $300,000 home in a "well-manicured" section of Flower Mound, Texas and it only cost him $16 to do so. As the Daily Mail recently reported ("Man Uses Obscure Law To Obtain Ownership Of $300K Home In Upscale Texas Town . . . for just $16"), the man took advantage of an "obscure" Texas law that permits residents to take ownership of abandoned homes through adverse possession. Although apparently not too popular with his new neighbors, the man is the envy of extreme couponers and bargain hunters everywhere.
As the article notes, the house was abandoned after being hit with a trifecta of mortgage crisis phenomena: (1) the mortgage company foreclosed upon the property; (2) the owners simply walked away from the mortgage and the property; and (3) the mortgage company went bust. Enter Kenneth Robinson. After doing "months of research," Robinson filled out some paperwork, paid the $16 filing fee, and moved his belongings into the home. Robinson is now seeking to take ownership in the home under a law that the paper described as follows:
Under the law, if someone moves into an abandoned home they have exclusive negotiating rights with the original owner.
If the owner wants them to leave, they have to pay off the mortgage debt on the home and the bank has to file a complicated lawsuit to get them evicted.
Mr Robinson believes that because of the cost required to move him out, he will be able to stay in the house. Under occupancy laws, if he remains there for three years he can ask the court for the title.
Staying three years may prove difficult though, as the home currently does not have any water or electricity. Nonetheless, Robinson appears undeterred.
Not surprisingly, the neighbors have not welcomed Robinson to the neighborhood with open arms. In fact, since moving in, Robinson has put up "No Trespassing" signs after his neighbors called the police to have him arrested for trespassing. However, according to the police, Robinson cannot be arrested or removed because home ownership is a civil matter. Judging by the comments from the neighbors, it does not appear that the matter will stay civil for much longer.