Skip to main content



Puterman v. City of Long Branch

372 N.J. Super. 567, 859 A.2d 1246 (Law Div. 2004)

LANDOWNER’S LIABILITY; PARKING LOTS—A commercial landowner does not have a duty to alleviate the danger of black ice in an entire adjoining municipal parking lot that serves many surrounding businesses and establishments.

A customer parked in a municipal lot. The lot was covered by black ice and the customer slipped and was injured while walking to a store. He sued the store owner, alleging that because the store told its customers that parking was available in the municipality’s lot, it knew that they would park there. He further alleged that the store breached its duty to provide safe ingress and egress to its premises, even within the municipal lot. The store owner moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe a duty to the customer. The Court agreed.

To the Court, the issue was whether a commercial landowner was liable for a business invitee’s injuries when the invitee slips on ice in an adjacent municipal parking lot en route to the commercial landowner’s premises. The Court held that the commercial landowner did not owe a duty to remedy the icy condition in the municipal lot. It agreed that a commercial landowner is responsible for maintaining its abutting sidewalk in a reasonably good condition and is liable to an injured pedestrian for its negligent failure to do so. However, in this case, the accident did not happen on the owner’s property, but on the municipality’s property. Furthermore, the owner neither installed nor maintained the lot. The lot was not installed to advance the owner’s interests. There was no ordinance making the lot the owner’s responsibility. There was no evidence that the owner had notice of a dangerous condition before the accident. Consequently, the Court found that it would have been unreasonable to expect the store owner to keep the entire municipal lot free from ice, especially because the store had about twenty-five of its own parking spots. Therefore, since the customer decided to use the municipal lot instead of the owner’s parking, he could not claim to have a reasonable expectation that the owner would give him safe passage from any point in the municipal lot.

Additionally, since there were numerous routes from the parking lot to the owner’s establishment, the only way the owner could provide reasonably safe ingress and egress was by keeping the entire lot clear. The Court concluded that this was not a reasonable remedy for one benefitted proprietor, since the lot served an almost undeterminable number of other businesses.

Therefore, the Court held that a commercial landowner does not have a duty to alleviate the danger of black ice in an entire adjoining municipal parking lot that serves many surrounding businesses and establishments. While a landlord owes the highest duty to its invitees, the Court concluded that this duty does not include an icy patch that is not under the landlord’s control or ownership. Because the owner provided a safe alternative means of ingress and egress, the Court concluded that fairness required that it should have been free from legal responsibility because the condition was far removed from its control. For that reason, the Court granted the owner’s motion for summary judgment.


MEISLIK & MEISLIK
66 Park Street • Montclair, New Jersey 07042
tel: 973-783-3000 • fax: 973-744-5757 • info@meislik.com