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Kavanagh and Breen Obtain SJ in Case of First Impression Involving Sidewalk Liability

May 25, 2017

Kevin Kavanagh (Partner-Philadelphia) and Brian Breen (Of Counsel-Philadelphia) obtained summary judgment in Middlesex County, New Jersey, on a sidewalk liability matter of first impression. The owner had foreclosed on the property and obtained title six months prior to a mailman’s slip-and-fall accident on the sidewalk in front of the property while delivering mail to the prior owners, who had refused to vacate. The owner did not take possession of the property until three months after the accident. The owner had taken absolutely no action to maintain or inspect the property at any point after taking title. Under New Jersey law, residential property owners are immune from liability for incidents resulting from the condition of the public sidewalk abutting their property, unless they actively create a dangerous condition. Commercial property owners, on the other hand, are liable for injuries on sidewalks caused by their negligent failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably good condition. The Court accepted Kevin and Brian’s argument that the residential nature of the property was not altered, absent evidence to the contrary, merely because the former mortgagor, a commercial entity, obtained title to the property via foreclosure. Therefore, the owner did not owe any duty to the plaintiff.

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