New Jersey has been unseasonably cold this winter season, and winter is far from over. Along with frigid temperatures comes the increasing presence of snow and ice. So, what duties do commercial landowners have in this regard? It is without question that a commercial landowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of invitees to the property, and may be held liable for failing to do so. This includes the removal of snow and ice. This has been the law in this state for several decades.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Court defined when the duty to remove snow and ice arises. In Quiles v. Hector, the Court determined that a commercial landowner has a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances and cannot be liable for failing to remove the accumulated snow or ice until a reasonable time after the storm ends. The Court further determined that local snow and ice removal ordinances could be indications of what a reasonable period of time would be. In Quiles, the local ordinance provided property owners 12 hours following a snowstorm to clear sidewalks.
As a commercial landowner, your duty to invitees onto your property begins within a reasonable time after the snow/ice even ends. And keep in mind…even rain can result in icy conditions when the temperature drops, so be sure to appropriately monitor the conditions of your property.
Tracy Bussel, Esq., is a partner at Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC, and practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, general liability, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities. Contact Ms. Bussel at 908-735-5161 or via email.
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