Who is Responsible to Clear a Sidewalk in New Jersey?

February 7, 2022
by We can Help Law

The responsibly to clear a sidewalk applies to the adjacent building owner in many circumstances.  However, only a commercial building owner is responsible for any injuries that are suffered by someone who slips and falls on an unclear sidewalk that is covered in snow and ice.  Private homeowners can still receive tickets in they violate local ordinances however, they cannot be sued in court if someone is hurt.


Commercial Landowner Liability

The New Jersey Supreme Court held in 1981 in a case called Stewart v. 104 Wallace Street, that a commercial landowner has a legal duty to maintain their abutting sidewalks in a safe condition.  If they are negligent and fail to maintain the abutting sidewalks in a safe condition, they can be responsible if an individual slips and falls and hurts themselves.  A few years later the New Jersey Supreme Court again affirmed the legal doctrine that commercial landowners have a legal duty to ensure that the abutting sidewalks to their businesses are safe.  Specifically, the court held that a commercial landowner has a legal duty to clear snow and ice from a sidewalk and if they fail to do so they will be held responsible if someone falls and hurts themselves as a result of their failure to prudently remove snow and ice.

A commercial landowner’s duty is however limited by what is known as the ongoing storm rule.  The ongoing storm rule holds that a commercial property owner does not have a legal duty to begin removing snow and ice and making the sidewalk safe until after a storm has passed.  In other words, a commercial landowner does not need to begin removing snow and ice from their sidewalk until after all precipitation has stopped.  If someone is hurt while a storm is continuing, the commercial landowner will generally not be held liable for any injuries that occur.


Private Landowners Duty

In many municipalities throughout the state of New Jersey, a residential homeowner has a legal duty to clear their sidewalk from any snow and ice.  This duty comes from locally enacted municipal ordinances that mandate that a residential homeowner clear snow and ice from the abutting sidewalks of their homes. If the residential homeowner fails to do this, they can be fined by the municipality.  The question then arises, does a local ordinance create a legal duty to an injured person who slips and fall because of a homeowner violating a local ordinance and failing to clear snow and ice from their property.  The short answer is no.  New Jersey Courts have held that a municipal sidewalk ordinance does not create a tort owning duty to a passerby on a public sidewalk.  Specific to the removal of snow and ice, a homeowner who violates a local ordinance which requires the removal of snow and ice can be fined by the municipality as stated above, but that individual cannot be held liable in a civil proceeding for injuries suffered because of any fall which occurs due to that icy sidewalk.  This has been the law in the state of New Jersey since the court decided this issue in 1964 in a matter called Brown v. Kelly.


Contact our Firm

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a slip and fall on ice, contact our New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers.  Consultations are completely free. Our lawyers will take the time to speak with you about the specific facts and circumstances of your case.  If we decide to take your case, you do not pay a legal fee unless we win.