New Jersey Appellate Court Rejects Premises Liability Claim When Plaintiff Was Aware of Risk

In Ilg v. Meade, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division addressed an action for injuries allegedly caused by a slip and fall on snow and ice while walking near the neighboring defendants’ home. Following a snowstorm, the defendants had parked their cars on their driveway in a manner that partially blocked the sidewalk in front of their residence. While walking to the defendants’ residence on the date of the accident, the plaintiff had walked from her driveway into the street to avoid the defendants’ vehicle. However, when returning to the residence later that day, the plaintiff walked from her driveway to the sidewalk, and allegedly fell while attempting to walk around the defendants’ vehicle.

The Court initially noted that as residential landowners, the defendants were not liable under New Jersey law for accidents that occurred due to ice on sidewalks adjacent to their property. The Court further observed that while the plaintiff contended that the defendants violated an ordinance by blocking the sidewalk with their vehicle, the violation of an ordinance did not give rise to a private cause of action.

Finally, the Court observed that under New Jersey law, an landowner has a duty to warn a social guest of a known dangerous condition unless the guest is aware of the condition or would observe it by reasonable use of the facilities. As the plaintiff was aware of the vehicle’s location and had admitted that she had previously walked in the street because “she felt it was safer,” the Court found that the dangerous condition was “self-evident and, therefore, not actionable.” The Court therefore upheld the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in the defendants’ favor.