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Proto v. CVS

A-3258-06T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS — A commercial property owner’s duty to maintain sidewalks does not apply to injuries occurring on a public street where the property owner did not, in any way, cause or contribute to the defect in the public street and the accident did not happen in a designated loading zone for the abutting business.

A newspaper deliveryman parked his truck in a no-parking zone in front of a store where he was making a delivery. When he stepped out of the truck, his foot went into a pothole and he was seriously injured. The deliveryman sued for his injuries. The lower court dismissed his claim, finding that the store bore no responsibility for maintaining the public street in front of it, rejecting the deliveryman’s argument that because he parked in that spot as a matter of custom, the store had a duty to ensure his safety in the public roadway.

On appeal, the Appellate Division noted that commercial landowners have a duty to maintain the sidewalks abutting their properties in reasonably good condition and that they could be liable for injuries resulting from a failure to do so. It also noted that as to roadways, there is a more flexible standard that calls for an examination of the circumstances in a context of basic fairness, including the relationship of the parties and the ability of a party to exercise care. The Court found that under either standard, the store was not responsible for the injuries. It pointed out that the duty of a commercial landowner to maintain sidewalks did not apply to the matter since the injury occurred in a public street and that the no-parking zone in front of the store was not a designated loading zone. The Court also found that the store bore no liability for the deliveryman’s injuries under the flexible standard because there was no evidence that the store, in any way, caused or contributed to the formation of the pothole.


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