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Jovanovic v. C&S Motor Corp.

A-1917-07T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2009) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS — Commercial property owners are responsible for keeping sidewalks abutting their property safe and clear, but such owners must first have had actual constructive notice to remove a hazard before such liability will be imposed.

A pedestrian, while looking at used cars at a closed used car lot, tripped and fell over a sign lying on the ground. In the lawsuit that followed, the pedestrian argued that a lease agreement between the car lot and the lot’s landlord made the landlord liable for the injury. The lower court dismissed the pedestrian’s complaint, finding that the landlord was out of possession and did not have actual or constructive notice of the potential hazard that the signs that had been removed one day earlier. On appeal, the Appellate Division recited that commercial landowners are responsible for keeping sidewalks abutting their property safe and clear, but the owner had to have actual or constructive notice to remove a hazard before incurring liability. The pedestrian’s argument that the signs could have been on the ground for as long as seventeen months was rejected as lacking any evidential support. The Court found that there was evidence that the signs were placed on the ground one day after the car lot closed (which was the day before the pedestrian’s accident) and that it was not unreasonable for the landlord not to have inspected the premises within that twenty-four hour period. Thus, the Court found that the lower court properly dismissed the pedestrian’s action and affirmed its decision.


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