Skip to main content

Del Priore v. Ng

A-6474-01T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS; LANDOWNER’S LIABILITY—Liability for sidewalk accidents caused by tree roots uplifting a sidewalk in front of a residence cannot not be imposed on the homeowner if the tree was not planted by the homeowner or by a predecessor in title to the homeowner.

A woman was injured when she tripped on a raised sidewalk slab abutting the front yard of a home.

The roots of a tree on the owner’s property lifted the sidewalk slab. According to the property owner, the municipality had planted the tree ten years earlier. The owner testified that he never performed repair work to the sidewalk. For several years, he was aware that the sidewalk was in bad shape and knew that the tree had caused the sidewalk defect. Nonetheless, he never cut the tree roots and didn’t tell the municipality about the problem. Further, he didn’t know if he was allowed to try to fix the problem himself.

The woman argued that because the tree was on the owner’s property, the owner was responsible to maintain the tree and its roots. Under case law, if a tree, as an artificial condition on a landowner’s property, is not properly maintained and, as a result, poses a risk of harm to pedestrians on a public sidewalk, the landowner may be liable if, by exercising due care, the landowner could have either warned of the risk or remedy the dangerous condition. Therefore, a non-commercial landowner may have a duty to maintain a tree it planted on its own property where a dangerous condition caused by the tree was foreseeable when planted or where the landowner knew of the condition, but failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the dangerous condition. Importantly, liability is limited to circumstances where the non-commercial landowner or a predecessor in title created the artificial condition upon the land. Here, that was not the case. The municipality had planted the tree. Therefore, the Court found for the landowner, and affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the complaint.

66 Park Street • Montclair, New Jersey 07042
tel: 973-783-3000 • fax: 973-744-5757 •