Addressing whether commercial landowners owe a duty to clear snow and ice from their property during a storm, the New Jersey Supreme Court has adopted the ongoing storm rule, under which a landowner does not have a duty to remove snow or ice from public walkways until a reasonable time after the cessation of precipitation. Angel Alberto Pareja v. Princeton International Properties (2021).
In January 2015, plaintiff Angel Alberto Pareja was walking to work when he slipped on ice, fell, and broke his hip. The sidewalk area on which he fell was on property owned and managed by defendant Princeton International Properties, Inc. The night before, a wintry mix of light rain, freezing rain, and sleet began to fall. Around the time of his fall, light rain and pockets of freezing rain were falling. Pareja’s expert opined that Princeton International could have successfully reduced the hazardous icy condition by pre-treating the sidewalk. Pareja filed a complaint, and the trial court granted summary judgment to Princeton International. The Appellate Division reversed and held that Princeton International had a duty of reasonable care to maintain the sidewalk even when precipitation was falling.
The Supreme Court opined that the limiting principles established in the Court’s precedent warranted the adoption of the ongoing storm rule. Under the Court’s ruling, commercial landowners do not have a duty to remove the accumulation of snow and ice until the conclusion of the storm, but unusual circumstances may give rise to a duty before then. There are two exceptions that could impose a duty: if the owner’s conduct increases the risk, or the danger is pre-existing, according to the Court.
Clark & Fox, which was not involved in the litigation, continues to monitor New Jersey cases for ongoing developments in premises liability law. Contact John Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Savett at email@example.com for more information.