By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

In a victory for the Skyline Condominium Association (and similarly-situated associations throughout New Jersey), the Supreme Court has determined that because the association was primarily residential in nature, no sidewalk liability attached for injuries sustained by plaintiff, who slipped and fell outside the condominium building. Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice LaVecchia stated “[t]here is no call to upset the well-established and longstanding difference in the duties imposed on residential versus commercial property owners.”

In Richard Luchejko v. The City of Hoboken, the Court’s determination on liability ultimately turned on whether the association was considered commercial or residential in nature. The relevant facts are as follows: in the early morning ofFebruary 14, 2006, plaintiff, Richard Luchejko, slipped and fell on black ice while walking on the sidewalk abutting the Skyline, a 104-unit high rise condominium in Hoboken, New Jersey. The association’s contractor had plowed and salted the sidewalk after a snow storm two days prior to plaintiff’s accident but did not re-inspect the premises prior to the accident. Plaintiff suffered a broken leg as a result of his fall. He sued the City of Hoboken, the association, its management company and the association’s snow-removal contractor, alleging negligent maintenance and inspection of the sidewalk.

The Supreme Court decision affirmed two previous lower court decisions determining that the association (and its management company) had no liability for plaintiff’s fall on the sidewalk. The decision discussed the distinction between residential and commercial properties and reasoned that commercial property owners were better suited to treat additional insurance premiums and maintenance expenses as a necessary cost of doing business. The Court found that the association, a non-profit corporation, was not comparable to a rental property, which is able to generate revenue for the owner from the use of the property. Thus, the Court held that residential homeowners, including condominium associations, will not be liable in such situations unless they create or exacerbate a dangerous condition. This decision upholds the public policy not to impose sidewalk liability on residential homeowners that has stood in New Jersey for more than thirty years.

You can read the Supreme Court’s decision in Richard Luchejko v. The City of Hoboken here.       

For more information on Luchejko or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys.