Skip to main content



Spivey v. Koepff

A-5156-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LANDOWNER’S LIABILITY—A property owner has a duty to make reasonable inspections to discover and remedy defective conditions, but is generally not liable for injuries caused by defects of which the owner neither knew nor had reasonable opportunity to discover.

An employee of a local canvas shop was injured when he slipped off the roof of a customer’s summer home while removing an awning. He alleged that the fall was caused by shingles that had been loosened because the nails holding them had corroded. The homeowner’s liability claim was premised upon the duty of the property’s owner to warn or guard against the dangers of which it had actual or constructive knowledge. According to the employee’s expert, the property owner should or would have seen the problem from the seating area of a second-floor deck because corrosion takes place over a long time.

The lower court granted the homeowner’s request for a dismissal after finding that no evidence had been presented showing a dangerous roof condition. It held that the expert’s analysis was only a net opinion. The Appellate Division affirmed. Although a property owner has a duty to make reasonable inspections to discover and remedy defective conditions, it is generally not liable for injuries caused by defects of which the owner had neither knowledge nor reasonable opportunity to discover. Whether a reasonable opportunity exists depends on the character and duration of the defect.

In this case, the roof defect was one that an owner would not reasonably be expected to notice because it was allegedly caused by the corrosion below the surface of the shingles, and thus out of view. Furthermore, there was no evidence suggesting that there was anything else about the age or the condition of the shingles that would have given any sort of notice to the owner. The Court noted that during a deposition, when asked about the appearance of the roof, the employee admitted that it appeared to be safe. Further, the owner only occupied the property on a part-time basis.


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