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Jenkins v. Cheong

A-1141-07T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS — There is a long standing common law doctrine that an abutting residential property owner is not liable for the condition of the sidewalk caused by the action of elements or by wear and tear incident to public use.

A pedestrian on a public sidewalk was injured when he tripped over a portion of the sidewalk that had been raised by a tree root. The sidewalk lay adjacent to a single family property used as a residence. The owner had made no repairs to the sidewalk prior to the date of the pedestrian’s fall.

The pedestrian sued the homeowner for personal injuries. After discovery and upon a summary judgment motion, the lower court concluded that the municipal ordinances that imposed a duty on the residential landowner to keep the abutting sidewalk in good repair established tort liability for the pedestrian’s personal injuries because of the poorly maintained sidewalk.

On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed. The Court recognized the long standing common law doctrine that an abutting residential owner is not liable for the condition of a sidewalk caused by the action of elements or by wear and tear incident to public use, as was the case in this matter. Further, the Court held that only the New Jersey Legislature could impose tort liability through statute; a municipality may not do so by ordinance to create private causes of action.


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