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Crisonino v. Balint

A-2126-04T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS—The law set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court is clear: absent having created a dangerous condition on an abutting sidewalk, a homeowner is not liable to a pedestrian who is injured by a fall on the sidewalk.

A pedestrian “suffered a fractured arm after falling on an uneven portion of a public sidewalk abutting the front of [a] residence.” The homeowner agreed that the sidewalk was raised and that he noticed the uneven sidewalk prior to the fall, and that he took no steps to correct the condition and did not post any warning signs. “No evidence show[ed] that [the homeowner] took any action with respect to changing, modifying or repairing the sidewalk at any time since [its] purchase of the realty. Similarly, there [was] no evidence showing [that the homeowner’s] predecessor in title took such action.” The lower court ruled that “residential landowners remain immune from claims arising from falls on sidewalks abutting their property. While owners of a property are liable for improper or negligent repair of a sidewalk, the [lower court] found no evidence that [this particular homeowner] repaired or attempted to repair the sidewalk.” The injured pedestrian argued that liability should be imposed “upon residential landowners, especially those with knowledge of a dangerous condition who choose not to correct or warn third parties of the condition.” She argued that “in the interest of public safety, incentives must issue to residential landowners to keep abutting sidewalks in proper repair to protect pedestrians.” She also argued that a “homeowner with knowledge of an unsafe conditions should bear ... the responsibility caused by that condition rather than the innocent injured party.” Lastly, the injured pedestrian argued “residential landowners receive financial benefits from the realty investment of home ownership, and are in a position to protect themselves from liability by purchasing insurance, making the concept of immunity unwarranted.”

Both the lower court and the Appellate Division rejected this effort “to extend the duty of care of residential landowners for injuries to third parties.” According to the Appellate Division, “[d]espite the passage of time since our Supreme Court last visited the issue, after carefully reviewing the record in the light of the written and oral arguments advanced by the parties, we find no compelling basis warranting disagreement with the trial court’s application of the law.” For that reason, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the action against the homeowner.

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