New Jersey Appellate Division Holds That Condominium Association Has No Duty to Plow Roadways During Snowstorm

In Kerton v. Society Hill at Droyers Point Condo. Ass’n, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division examined a lawsuit arising from an accident at a condominium development. After responding to a medical emergency during a snowstorm, a police officer slipped on a snow-covered road, landing on her back and hitting her head on the road. The police officer sued the condominium association and the contractor retained to remove snow from the development. Under the terms of its contract with the association, the contractor was required to plow snowfalls of two inches or more, and was required to make an initial pass-through “to reasonably clear roadways to help enable cars to leave/arrive the community except in extreme conditions.” The contract further provided that the contractor would not clear snow from parking lots and sidewalks until the snowfall ended.

Employees of the contractor testified that they had performed the initial “pass-through” at the time of the snowfall, and produced records supporting this contention. The plaintiff and her coworkers testified that they did not see any plows while they were at the property. The plaintiff also presented a report by a snow removal expert averring that the contractor likely performed the initial “pass-through,” but lacked sufficient equipment to keep up with the snowstorm.

Following the completion of discovery, the trial court granted summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. The Court found that the contractor satisfied its obligation to keep the roads in the development open for emergency vehicles, and that the condominium association had no duty to do more. The trial court also found that the plaintiff’s expert was an inadmissible “net opinion” that lacked a basis for its conclusions.

While acknowledging that businesses (including condominium associations) had a duty under New Jersey law to make sidewalks safe for pedestrians by removing snow and ice, the Appellate Division observed that roadways were intended for vehicles, rather than pedestrians. The Appellate Division further noted that there were no cases imposing a duty on any landowner to clear snow and ice while a snowstorm was continuing to fall. The Appellate Division therefore affirmed the trial court’s determination that the condominium association was not negligent. The Court also affirmed the trial court’s determination that the contractor was not negligent. In so doing, the Court observed that the contractor clearly satisfied its obligation to perform an initial “pass-through,” as the evidence established that the police and an ambulance were able to access the property during the snowstorm. Finally, the Court agreed that the plaintiff’s expert opinion lacked a factual basis. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in the defendants’ favor.