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Blair v. Asbury Park Housing Authority

2005 WL 2738405 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; PUBLIC HOUSING; LIABILITY—A public housing authority is protected by the New Jersey Tort Claims Act and if it has no notice of icy conditions it cannot be liable for the injuries of one who slips on such ice.

While returning to his apartment one evening, a public housing tenant was injured when he slipped and fell on the building’s parking lot. Due to a recent snowstorm, the area was very icy at the time. The injured tenant filed a complaint for negligence against the housing authority and municipality. Both entities moved for summary judgment which was granted by the lower court. The tenant appealed the ruling, but to no avail.

The Appellate Division held that the housing authority’s liability was governed by the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, which establishes a general rule of immunity for public entities with narrow exceptions. Under the Act, a public entity is not liable for an injury regardless of whether the injury arises out of an act or omission of the entity. The only exception is if a person can prove that: 1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury; 2) the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition; 3) the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the type of injury that occurred; and either a) a negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the injury; or b) a public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition. Under the Act, the entity may not be held liable for the dangerous condition if the action it took to protect against the condition was not palpably unreasonable. Here, the Court held that the housing authority was immune from liability because the man had failed to establish that the authority had actual notice of the icy conditions for a sufficient time before the accident. There was no evidence of any prior complaints about the ice or any other indication that the authority would have been aware of the ice before the man’s accident.

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