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Russ v. The Borough of Roseland

A-2605-00T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

SIDEWALKS — The Appellate Division reaffirms existing case law which protects homeowners against claims for injuries incurred on abutting sidewalks.

While walking her dog “over a sidewalk she had traversed on prior occasions,” a woman allegedly tripped and fell on a “raised and broken” sidewalk abutting residential property. The record indicated that the sidewalk had a separation of “perhaps a couple of inches to less than an inch,” which was not an unusual defect. The municipality had an ordinance requiring property owners, at their own expense, to keep abutting sidewalks in good repair. There was no evidence that this property owner had caused the condition of the sidewalk or had made any failed attempts to repair it. “The settled negligence law in New Jersey is that a residential property owner is not responsible in tort for the care or maintenance of an abutting sidewalk or for the sidewalk’s deterioration due to normal wear and tear.” There are circumstances where a property owner can be liable for defective sidewalk conditions when they are created by the “direct use” or an “affirmative act” of the property owner. The Appellate Division declined that invitation to change the law, stating that such an invitation is “better extended to our Supreme Court.”

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