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Hays v. Borough of Freehold

A-4280-96T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1998) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS; LIABILITY—Where an injured pedestrian can not show that a residential property owner was the one that made defective repairs to an abutting sidewalk, the property owner has no liability to the injured party.

A pedestrian fell on a public sidewalk abutting private property owned and occupied by a residential homeowner. The pedestrian alleged that she fell on the raised portion of the sidewalk where tree roots had upheaved the pavement, and where the sidewalk had been negligently patched and repaired. The municipality had a sidewalk maintenance ordinance making adjacent owners responsible for sidewalk repairs. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipality based on several statutory immunities including The Tort Claims Act and the Appellate Division affirmed.

On the other hand, to succeed against the homeowner, the injured pedestrian was required to prove that the homeowner made a defective repair to the sidewalk, not just that the defective sidewalk abutted the homeowner’s property. Here, no such proof was made. Although the pedestrian argued that homeowners should be held to the same standard of liability as commercial owners of property abutting defective sidewalks, the Appellate Division declined to do so, leaving it to the Supreme Court to change the law.


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