Lugo v. Nasralla

A-6698-97T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: July 23, 1999

SIDEWALKS; LIABILITY; BROKERS—Absent more, listing and selling brokers are not liable to a prospective buyer who slips on snow and ice while viewing a listed home.

A person was injured in a slip and fall on snow and ice on a sidewalk abutting a two family home. The home had been listed for sale with a real estate broker and the injured person had been viewing the home with a real estate agent not affiliated with the listing broker. At the time of the visit, the owner had been out of the country for several months and the house was vacant. The injured party contended that the real estate agents and the homeowner owed him a duty of care because of his status as an invitee. The lower court disagreed and granted summary judgment to all defendants. The Appellate Division affirmed. In the case cited by the injured person as support for his claim that the real estate agents breached a duty of care, the plaintiff was visiting a home listed for sale at which a real estate broker was conducting an open house. There, the injury was caused by a fall over a step that was not immediately apparent. In that case, the Court concluded that a real estate broker has a duty to ensure, through a reasonable inspection and warning, the safety of prospective buyers and visitors that tour an open house. In this case, however, the prospective buyer did not fall within the home or anywhere on the property. The fall was on the public sidewalk abutting the property and nothing in the prior case law justified the imposition of the duty of care upon real estate agents in that situation. As to the claim against the homeowner, the Court cited the well-established law in New Jersey that the duty to clear accumulated snow and ice from abutting public sidewalks is restricted to owners of commercial property. To allow a prospective buyer to recover from the homeowner from the fall, but to bar a pedestrian that may have fallen at the same time, was considered by the Court to be illogical and unproductive.