by: Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)
We just got another round of snow/rain/ice/freezing rain (hereinafter referred to as a “wintry mix”) this weekend. As I was out shoveling, my thoughts turned to the potential liability of property owners when someone slips on the wintry mix piled up on their property. OK, my thoughts did not really turn to this, but one of the questions that I do get asked somewhat frequently from friends and family is whether they can be liable if someone slips on their property under these circumstances. A recent decision from the Appellate Division, Zheng v. Santos, revisited the law on this subject. Although it is generally considered to be well-settled, the decision in Zheng reveals that there are a number of exceptions and nuances that make the law about as unsettled as our weather has been this winter.
In Zheng, plaintiff slipped and fell on the sidewalk outside of defendants’ three-family home in Jersey City. The issue before the court was whether the owners had a duty to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk. The trial court held that it did not, and the Appellate Division affirmed. In doing so, however, it provided a primer on the evolution of the law governing property owner liability for such injuries in New Jersey.
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