Owners of Vacant Commercial Buildings Have a Duty to Maintain and Repair Adjacent Sidewalks
There can be no doubt: we are currently facing hard economic realities. Businesses are struggling, and as a result, many have been forced to close their doors. However, just because a business is no longer viable and open to the public does not mean a business property owner does not have a duty to maintain and repair the sidewalk in front of his or her property. Yesterday, the New Jersey Appellate Division released its decision in Gray v. Caldwell Wood Products Incorporated. This is a significant case for anyone who is injured on New Jersey sidewalks adjacent to abandoned commercial buildings as well as a person or entity owning a property that meets that decription. The Gray decision imposes liability on vacant commercial property owners who fail to keep their sidewalks in good repair and free from such other hazards as snow and/or ice… Commercial land owners have always have a clear obligation to maintain the sidewalks in front of their establishments in good repair. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in the 1981 case Stuart v. 104 Wallace St., Inc. that commercial property owners are: … responsible for maintaining in reasonably good condition the sidewalks abutting their property and are liable to pedestrians injured as a result of their negligent failure to do so.” It is important to note that this obligation only applies to commercial real estate owners as opposed to residential real estate owners. This distinction exists, at least in part, because commercial property owners generate income that can be used to offset the cost of keeping an adjoining sidewalk in good repair. Owners of vacant commercial lots (vacant land) do not have the same obligation to keep their sidewalks in good repair.
Prior to the Gray decision, owners of vacant commercial property were able to defend premise liability lawsuits on the ground that their real estate was more akin to a vacant lot then viable, revenue-generating commercial real estate enterprise. For the purposes of assigning responsibility for sidewalk maintenance, the distinction of whether a commercial property generates income or not is now moot after Gray. All commercial property owners (as opposed to residential property or commercial lot owners) have an unambiguous obligation to maintain and repair the public sidewalks that adjoin their property. If your loved one have been injured due to a slip and fall or a trip and fall, please contact the personal injury lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele online today. As a DeMichele & DeMichele personal injury client, you will never pay a fee unless we recover for you. The initial consultation is also confidential and free; call (856) 546-1350 to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys.