Winter brings cold temperatures, snow and ice. Winter is the time of year that requires business owners to remove the snow and ice from their property. Even the most diligent of property owners can be faced with the dreaded lawsuit that is filed by the customer that falls on ice or snow. What duty does the law impose to the property owner, tenant or snow removal company?
The New Jersey Appellate Division in an unpublished decision recently discussed the responsibility when a patron slips and falls on ice. In Cavaliere vs. Bridgewater Commons Mall, II Mrs. Cavaliere broke her ankle when she exited the mall, lost her footing and fell. Seven inches of snow had fallen the day before and there was testimony that ice was on the sidewalk and snow on the overhang near the door. There was also evidence that salt was seen all over the sidewalks and hourly inspections made of the area where the accident occurred. The jury after listening to the testimony found that neither the owner of the mall nor the snow removal company was responsible. The Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge’s charges to the jury which stated that a business property owner has a duty to use reasonable care to make sure that the sidewalks are safe for the public. The mall owner was required to make inspections of its property and to be aware of dangerous conditions that a reasonable inspection would have revealed. The jury apparently found that Ms. Cavaliere did not meet her burden of proof establishing that the mall owners and/or the snow removal company was negligent in removing the snow and ice or that the mall owners knew that a dangerous condition existed.
Would you have correctly guessed the outcome of the Cavaliere case? Would you have thought that Ms. Cavaliere should receive some kind of money to compensate her for the broken ankle; after all Ms. Cavaliere was not responsible to remove the ice on the sidewalk. Slip and fall cases are properly evaluated on their specific set of facts and the legal responsibility the law imposes depends on these facts. With this uncertainty a common sense approach to reduce the chances of responsibility is to consider the following:
1. Follow your municipality’s snow removal ordinance requirements;
2. Remove snow and ice as soon as humanly possible and no later that your municipalities time limits;
3. Inspect and re-inspect all property that contributes to snow and ice accumulation including overhangs and gutters. Fix any potential dangerous condition.
4. Keep a written record of all action taken to keep your property safe.
5. Should an accident occur, immediately call the police and then your insurance agent to provide prompt notice of the claim.
Carol L. Perez, Esq. has been reappointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as Chair of the Workers Compensation Certification Committee.
In her role as Chair, Ms. Perez will review applications filed by New Jersey Attorneys to become certified in the area of Workers’Compensation law. Ms. Perez will also be drafting and grading the certification examination.
Carol L. Perez, Lecturer and Helpline Volunteer
Carol L. Perez, Esq. presently serves as a volunteer attorney for the Hunterdon Helpline, a non-profit organization. Each month Ms. Perez makes herself available to the residents of Hunterdon County who are in need of legal services via the “Ask the Attorney Night” program. Ms. Perez has been a frequent guest over the past years on many local radio and TV programs. In November 2014, Ms. Perez presented to Hunterdon County Lawyers a seminar on the topic of Workers Compensation law in the State of New Jersey.
Young and Perez is proud is be a supporter of the 2006 Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. This year’s Marathon raised over $4,200,000.00 dollars to help conquer childhood cancer. For further information on THON please visit www.THON.org.
Carol Perez recognizes the need for the diverse Latino population of Hunterdon County to be united. As the newest addition to the Hunterdon Hispanos Board of Directors, Mrs. Perez is already working on the social, economic and political issues of the Hispanic community. This organization holds and supports events to bring together the Hispanic community, as well as working with other organizations to advocate for Latino interests within the county. Carol Perez will help the Hispanic community with opportunities to come together, a more efficient way to access information & resources and provide an outlet to learn of the different cultures within the Latino Community. For more information on Hunterdon Hispanos Board of Directors, please visit HunterdonHispanos
The spring and summer months offer employees opportunities to play softball with co-workers or attend company picnics. If an employee gets hurt while playing ball or trips and falls at the company outing, are they covered under the New Jersey Compensation law? Before the New Jersey Supreme Court decision of Lozano v. Frank DeLuca Contruction decided on March 10, 2004, the employee would have a number of large hurdles to jump; the hurdles have now gotten smaller.
Mr. Lozano, the injured worker in the Lozano decision was severely injured while driving a customer’s go cart at the customer’s home which was also the work site. Mr. Lozano at his hearing testified that his boss told him to get in the cart and drive it even though Mr. Lozano did not know how to drive. The Workers Compensation Judge and the Appellate Division held that Mr. Lozano was engaged in a “recreational activity” at the time of the accident and was outside the scope of employment. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case to the Workers Compensation Judge to decide whether or not Mr. Lozano’s employer compelled Mr. Lozano to drive the go-cart.
If the Workers Compensation Judge finds that there was an objective reasonable basis in fact for believing that the employer had compelled the activity, the injuries will be found compensable and Mr. Lozano will be entitled to temporary disability benefits, medical treatment and permanent disability benefits. Activities that are normally considered recreational or social when compelled by an employer are now considered work related activities as a matter of law.