Property Managers and Premises Liability in New Jersey

When a tenant rents an apartment, home, or business property from a landlord or property manager, they expect to stay safe on the premises.

Property Managers and Premises Liability in New JerseyUnfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and accidents happen. When a tenant is injured due to the negligence of a property manager to keep the property up-to-date in structural and functional safety features, they have a right to seek damages in some cases. So what are the circumstances in which a property manager is liable for an injury that happens on their property, and when is the care and safe-keeping of a space the responsibility of the tenant? Read on to learn more about the obligations and liabilities of property managers in premises liability cases.

When is a property manager likely to be liable in New Jersey?

If a property has shared spaces, its maintenance and upkeep are the responsibility of the landlord or property owner. As such, if an injury occurs in a common area such as a lounge, pool area, or parking lot, a tenant can file a personal injury claim against the landlord and expect to receive compensation. Usually, such injuries that happen in a common area occur as a result of a landlord’s negligence. Unless there is regular upkeep, dangerous situations can exist, such as icy entrances, slippery stairways, and malfunctioning appliances such as communal cooking items or laundry machines. In all of these cases, it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to ensure that such fixtures are operating safely. While generally, landlords are off the hook when it comes to areas that are the exclusive domain of a tenant, common areas are definite liability centers. Yet common areas aren’t the only spaces in which landlords have a legal duty to maintain premises. Even a landlord’s own management of small but essential details, such as where and how they keep master keys,  can cause havoc that leads to a break-in or other accident, rendering them liable for failure to maintain the premises. Read on to learn about other areas in which premises liability falls in the court of a landlord or property management serving as their agent.

Smoke Alarms and Other NJ Emergency Equipment

Emergency equipment is one of the most essential fixtures in any private or business rental. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked by landlords and property managers, and tenants are left to find out that their preventive and emergency equipment is malfunctioning in highly inopportune and dangerous times. Things like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers have regular maintenance requirements that it is the duty of a landlord or property manager to schedule. If you are a tenant, take your safety into your own hands by inquiring as to the last time that the emergency equipment was serviced. If you are the victim of an accident that occurred due to malfunctioning equipment of this kind, contact our firm right away; you likely have the right to recover damages to your person and property caused by your landlord’s negligence.

Safety Features on Doors and Windows in NJ

Maintenance of Safety Devices Few things are more expected by a tenant than having a safely secured home or business environment, and few things are more terrifying than becoming aware that this is just not the case. It is the legal responsibility of a landlord to ensure that all exterior doors have proper locks and work well. If there is a common outer door shared by tenants, safety features must be in place to ensure that only invited guests enter the premises, and go where they are invited only. Having malfunctioning elements of a security system such as a buzzer that doesn’t work or worn locks and bolts create a scenario in which a person can break their way in; as such, regular maintenance and checks are necessary. Individual units must be checked regularly, at least at the beginning and end of a tenant’s tenure in the space – and more regularly if the tenant requests it – to ensure that doors, windows, and screens have locks that properly work and have not slipped out of place. A landlord is responsible for reviewing that any security features on doors or windows in accordance with municipal safety regulations, as well as things such as bars on doors and windows, are steadily attached while still ensuring that they are up to fire code, allowing for exit in the case of a fire or other emergency.

Did rental conditions jeopardize your and your family’s safety? Contact our Personal Injury Attorneys for a free confidential consultation at our Trenton office.

If you have been in an accident due to landlord or property management negligence, it’s essential that you have an attorney on your side. To recover damages due to your rental property accident, you’ll need the knowledge and requisite legal experience to successfully correlate your injuries with the negligence of the party responsible for maintaining property safety.

The attorneys at Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, have handled numerous cases in successfully representing clients and making sure their rights are protected and guaranteed. Our firm has worked side by side with clients from Burlington, Ewing, Princeton, Willingboro, Mount Holly, and Surrounding places. It will be our pleasure to talk to you during an initial consultation.

Call 609-528-2596 as soon as you are able after an incident to discuss your options and what can be done on your behalf. We can help.

Who can be Liable in a Premises Liability Case?

A property owner can be held responsible for injuries or damages caused to a person on their property.

Who can be Liable in a NJ Premises Liability Case?If you have ever heard of a slip and fall case, say, a 40-year-old woman sliding across a slick supermarket floor where another customer broke a pickle jar open, you probably think that the property owner is in big trouble. They are on the hook for any medical bills and lost wages the woman incurs because of the accident. That may or may not be accurate. Premises liability is not so cut and dried. Under common law rules and statutory laws, a property owner must make sure that no one gets hurt on their property; in other words, no dangerous condition exists on the property that would cause someone to get injured. But it depends on the property owner’s relationship to the person who gets hurt and what type of property to some extent. For instance, a business property owner is far more responsible to those injured because they invite people to their property by simply being open for business. On the other hand, private homeowners are not as obligated to make their property safe for others. And companies and private owners have even less obligation to a trespasser unless the trespasser is a child wandering onto the property.

Who is Liable for Injuries under Premises Liability Law in New Jersey?

The law of premises liability is complex and nuanced. Thus, it is not a matter of commercial property owners are liable to injured customers and residential owners are not. As such, a homeowner who knows about a broken step in their staircase must notify a guest of that danger. Even if they were unaware of the broken step, they may still be liable if the broken staircase is so apparent that anyone could reasonably see that they should repair the broken stair. In addition, if a trespasser enters private property, an owner formerly had no duty to the trespasser for their safety under common law by their status as a trespasser. However, the law gives special consideration to children who enter onto another’s property. At least one Supreme Court case has held a private property owner has some duty of reasonable care for a trespasser’s safety. So, if you have a six-foot deep ditch in your yard where a swimming pool is in construction, you may be liable for injuries to the neighbor’s kid who sneaks in your yard through an open gate and falls in the hole, especially if kids have trespassed in your yard before. Exceptional circumstances aside, however, most injuries occur on business premises, where a business owner is more likely to be responsible for damages to those entering their property.

How do you prove a premises liability claim in NJ?

To successfully sue a property owner for personal injury damages, a plaintiff must prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property that the owner should have reasonably known would probably cause someone injury and that the owner knew of the situation but did nothing about it. And if the property owner is a public entity, then New Jersey’s Tort Claims Act (N.J.S.A. 59-1 et seq.) applies. The Act requires that the injured party plaintiff prove that the public entity could reasonably foresee that the dangerous condition on their property could injure someone, that it did hurt someone, and that they did nothing about the condition despite knowing about or creating the danger.

Thus, a slip and fall liability provides a good illustration. Take the example of the broken pickle jar at the supermarket. A court would look at whether the business owner could have foreseen items on shelves would fall, break, and cause a risk of someone slipping and whether the owner should be liable for such an accident. A skilled attorney well-versed in premises liability law could argue that the supermarket owner should be accountable for their client’s injury. Customers knocking jars over into the aisle is common. A store owner should know that and be vigilant about spills, cleaning the area quickly and posting a visible warning of the danger, like a fluorescent cone marking the spot. In that way, the customer is aware that they should steer clear.

Holding Property Owners Liable for Personal Injury Compensation and Medical Bills in Trenton, NJ

Accidents happen everywhere, but a property owner should compensate you if your injury is their fault. You may have expensive medical bills that the responsible party should pay because they could have prevented your injury. By discussing your situation with a premises liability attorney, you might discover that you have a valid claim against the one who caused you injury. More importantly, your attorney can help you identify who is responsible for your damages. For example, someone other than the people who live at a private residence may own it. Your attorney would have to establish who created the dangerous condition and who, under the rental agreement, is responsible for ensuring that the property is safe.

Personal Injury Compensation in Trenton, NJFor example, a landlord may be responsible for landscaping and structural conditions, like trees, cement foundations, and swimming pools, while the tenant may be responsible for fixing appliances, plumbing, yard gates, and the like. It may matter where you were injured or by what to determine who is responsible. Both the landlord and the renter may be liable, and your attorney will probably advise including both in your personal injury claim. Likewise, a sole owner, a corporation, a partnership, or another business entity may own the location of your injury. In that case, your attorney would help you locate all responsible parties, including a public entity, if you were injured at a school or on government property, for example.

You would have to prove liability based on a different set of laws for a public entity than a private business or residence, so it is essential to know who owns the property where you were injured. Since premises liability injury matters can be complex, you will need guidance from an experienced attorney.

Need to File a Premises Liability Claim in New Jersey? Call KCR today

You are entitled to seek compensation if you were injured on someone else’s property. There are different avenues you can explore, but you do not have to do it on your own. When it comes to personal injury claims we strongly recommend consulting and eventually retaining a law firm that knows how to handle your case in a professional and strategic way.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries from a slip and fall accident or any other injuries suffered because of negligent behavior in towns such as Windsor, Lawrence, Groveville, Lambertville, Princeton, Florence, or Trenton give us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with the attorneys at Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson.

New Jersey Supreme Court Follows Through with “Ongoing Storm Rule”

We all know how much the variable climate affects every aspect of our lives in New Jersey.

New Jersey Ongoing Storm RuleThe snow and ice storms in the state create a plethora of precarious conditions for the roadways, sidewalks, and residential and commercial properties, but New Jersey residents have learned to navigate those conditions with caution to remain safe. One area of navigation that continues to be an issue regards public walkways and sidewalks in front of and within commercial properties. A recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Pareja v. Princeton International Properties & Lowe’s Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance, LLC, overturned the Appellate Division’s ruling that commercial and private properties are required to remove precarious walking conditions in the ongoing presence of precipitation, adopting the “Ongoing Storm Rule.”

What is the “ongoing storm rule”?

The “ongoing storm rule,” according to text from New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Fernandez-Vina’s majority opinion, is the precedent by which the owner of property does not have the legal obligation to remove snow or ice from public walkways until a reasonable amount of time subsequent to the precipitation ending. Given the amount of rain, ice, and snow that falls in New Jersey, the creation of precarious walking conditions is a practically inevitable aspect of winter and transitional months. The protection of property owners under the “ongoing storm rule” is quite vast, because the rule implies that it is impractical to remove snow or ice from sidewalks until the precipitation has ceased to fall. This argument of what is practical and therefore a safety responsibility, and what is impractical, has colored the New Jersey courts for decades. The majority noted in its opinion that liability lawsuits against property owners regarding slip and fall cases due to inclement weather have been on the record in New Jersey since 1926.

The Court noted multiple other states in the Northeast that adhere by the tenets of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” to protect commercial property owners from lawsuits that occur as the result of a slip and fall during inclement weather conditions. Yet, while the NJ Supreme Court’s decision was that the “ongoing storm rule” is justifiable and can serve as umbrella protection for property owners in inclement New Jersey weather, the ruling did leave the door open for future liability lawsuits to continue.

The Grey Area

While the majority of NJ Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of endorsing the “Ongoing Storm Rule” (the Court ruled in favor of the defendant 5-2), left quite a bit of grey area. In overturning the Appellate Division’s majority opinion that it is the property owner’s legal duty to act in a reasonably swift manner to remove precarious conditions. The Supreme Court noted that such an imposition on property owners does not take into condition their reasonable capacity to remove such dangerous obstacles, especially if they are small businesses.

The ruling upholding the “Ongoing Storm Rule” noted its trust of juries to determine whether the property manager acted in an appropriate manner and with appropriate expeditiousness. This placed a large amount of the application of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” in the hands of the deciding party on a case-by-case basis. Justice Fernandez-Vina stated clearly in its opinion that the jury could of course hear testimony that would inform whether the “Ongoing Storm Rule” would be appropriate to apply. The majority opinion was also clear that there are extenuating circumstances, which they called “unusual circumstances,” in which the breadth of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” might be reconsidered or reconfigured, and the property owner may be held responsible for accidents occurring on their public walkways. The opinion stated,

What is the “ongoing storm rule”?“First, commercial landowners may be liable if their actions increase the risk to pedestrians and invitees on their property, for example, by creating ‘unusual circumstances’ where the defendant’s conduct ‘exacerbate[s] and increase[s] the risk of injury to the plaintiff….Second, a commercial landowner may be liable where there was a pre-existing risk on the premises before the storm. For example, if a commercial landowner failed to remove or reduce a pre-existing risk on the property, including the duty to remove snow from a previous storm that has since concluded, he may be liable for an injury during a later ongoing storm.”

To ensure that you navigate your slip-and-fall lawsuit successfully as a plaintiff or commercial defendant, it is important to have the support of an experienced attorney.

Contact our Injury Attorneys for Help with Your Claim

If you are engaged in or considering filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit due to inclement New Jersey weather, our skilled injury attorneys are on your side. Examining your case to understand if it has the necessary elements to obtain compensation for a slip and fall is crucial, and we can help.

At Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, we successfully represent clients in Hamilton Township, Trenton, Ewing, and across Mercer, Camden, Burlington, Atlantic, Somerset, and Middlesex County.

Get in contact with us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss the grounds for your lawsuit for injury compensation.

Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases in NJ

Though businesses and life, in general, are opening up lately, COVID-19 will have long-lasting effects on the courts and all the entities involved in a personal injury claim.

Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases in NJIf you’ve been harmed in a car accident, in a slip and fall in a grocery store, or in any other circumstance where some other person or entity caused you injury on their property or anywhere else in New Jersey, you have the right to seek compensation for the medical bills, pain, and suffering that you endure by filing a personal injury claim.

There are some aspects of the courts, insurance companies, and businesses that have changed because of COVID-19, and that you need to be aware of under the unique circumstances. Know what to expect as you pursue your claim.

Is There a Limitation on When I Can File My Claim?

First and foremost, you need to be aware that the clock is ticking. You do not have unlimited time to file your claim.

Every state in the U.S. places a limit on how much time you can take to file a personal injury claim. The law that places this limit is known as a statute of limitations.

New Jersey’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases allows a person injured by a person or an entity two years to file a claim. Generally, the clock on that claim starts ticking on the day of the accident.

Though you may want to wait to collect all the doctor’s bills that accrue because of your injury, you must also keep in mind that if you don’t get your claim filed before two years is up, the courts will probably refuse to put your case on the docket. Your ability to gain compensation for your pain, suffering, and lost wages will, most likely, be lost unless there is an unusual circumstance that the court believes extends the deadline.

Don’t wait to file your claim because of COVID-19.

And don’t wait to file your claim because you feel that you don’t have enough money to pay legal fees. Remember that personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. They only get paid if the case is won.

My Personal Injury Case

Even during the height of the pandemic, when people mostly stayed home, there were still car accidents and slips and falls at grocery stores. Now that the economy and businesses are opening up, it’s unfortunate but likely that even more of these incidents will occur.

Pandemic or not, if you’ve suffered an injury that is not your fault, there are a few principles that you should follow:

·        Take pictures early on and steadily thereafter.

·        Keep a pain log daily that will document all that you endured.

·        Get a medical evaluation immediately. Go to all your medical appointments.

·        Documentation is key. It greatly improves your odds of getting compensation.

·        Never speak with any person from the insurance company, including adjusters, before speaking to a personal injury lawyer.

How Does the Pandemic Affect My Case?

How Does the Pandemic Affect My Case?Even though restrictions have eased, COVID-19 is still having a profound effect on personal injury claims in four broad areas:

Insurance companies.

They are worried about lower profits because of the pandemic, and they are aggressive in reducing settlements. They may try to take advantage of the fact that people might be more desperate because of lost wages due to the pandemic, and they are likely to low-ball their first offer. People should not just leap at the first offer from an insurer because it probably won’t reimburse them for medical bills, pain and suffering. As both sides dig in, more personal injury cases may wind up before a judge than usual.

Businesses.

Due to COVID-19, more businesses than usual are filing for bankruptcy. This means that compensation you might have been able to gain from them will be reduced to pennies on the dollar.

Courts.

New Jersey courts shut down and moved all proceedings onto technology platforms like Zoom because of COVID-19. Courts in New Jersey began to open up on June 22, 2021, but many hearings and procedures are still being conducted online. This means that personal injury cases might not be settled as quickly as they would in normal circumstances. Most PI cases get settled before trial, but many cases get at least one hearing in court, at least before a settlement is reached. Expect delays in getting your case settled.

Uninsured drivers.

Due to financial hardship during COVID-19, some drivers may have stopped paying for car insurance. This may complicate things for the victim of a car accident since they can’t be compensated by the driver’s insurance company. The victim may need to pursue compensation via the uninsured/underinsured driver policy through their insurer. A victim needs to be mindful that, in this instance, their insurer becomes an adversary and will resist paying. This kind of claim may be highly contested; the help of an attorney may be essential.

Don´t hesitate in contacting our Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you feel that you have the potential for a personal injury claim, please call Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson today. Our capable personal injury lawyers can fight for you with the insurance companies trying to take advantage of people in desperate straits because of COVID-19. You will need the guidance of experienced attorneys to get the best possible settlement for you and your family.

You can reach us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your individual needs and concerns.

Class Action Lawsuit Regarding Odors from Purina Pet Food Plant Receives Objection from Two Class Plaintiffs

When a large production plant or manufacturing facility exists in close proximity to a residential community, there is ample opportunity for conflict between the corporate interests and the homeowners.

Such conflicts often include noise complaints, danger to community members, including young children, noxious odors, and other emissions that threaten the physical health, quality of life, property values, peace, and enjoyment of those living in surrounding areas. For instance, due to the prevalence of food processing and animal agricultural operations throughout Pennsylvania, and the potential for odorous emissions being generated by this type of manufacturing, odor management standards, programs, and practices have become a substantial source of debate and concern. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, discord between the Purina pet food company, a subset of Nestle Purina Petcare Company based in St. Louis, MO, and local residents has led to a class action lawsuit.

What were the original details of the lawsuit?

Class Action Lawsuit Regarding Odors from Purina Pet Food Plant Receives Objection from Two Class PlaintiffsThe lawsuit, spearheaded by a legal team that includes Kamensky Cohen Riechelson’s own Kevin Riechelson, claimed that noxious smells from the pet food production process were adversely affecting the peace and wellbeing of Allentown neighbors. According to the class action suit, which was first filed in August of 2020 by lead plaintiffs Mark Fuehrer and Lori Fuehrer, local properties have been “physically invaded by noxious odors…which entered plaintiffs’ properties originating from defendant’s facility.” The odors, which, according to the details of the lawsuit, come from the process of drying and cooking ingredients such as raw proteins and animal fats, produce “highly odiferous emissions” that are released into the air surrounding the facility. The lawsuit explained that, in addition to the odors, the facility also produces massive amounts of organic waste. This waste, which is disposed of on-site at the outset, is not properly attended to given the nature of its ingredients, such as animal fats. Additionally, because the Purina facility has an on-site wastewater treatment process, this process of treating waste creates additional malodorous byproducts.

On March 17, 2021, the plaintiffs submitted an initial settlement that would serve to resolve the ongoing class action lawsuit. This proposed settlement called for an $800,000 payout within 30 days of the established date to all named class members and owners or residents of residential properties within a one and three-quarter-mile radius of the plant who resided in their proximal home during the named Settlement Class Period. Class members needed to have submitted proof of their claim within the established time frame and not explicitly mentioned their desire to be excluded from the lawsuit. The established time frame ended on June 1, 2021.

The class action settlement terms were preliminarily approved one day after submission on March 18, 2021, by US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Edward G. Smith. The Honorable Judge Smith noted, “The Court finds that the settlement agreement between the parties appears, upon preliminary review, to be a settlement in good faith, fair, adequate, reasonable, and in the best interests of the settlement class, and is preliminarily approved by the Court; etc., as herein.”

What has changed since the original settlement proposal was preliminarily approved?

Just over a week after the deadline to submit claims or opt-out of the suit, counsel for the lead plaintiffs in the case informed the court that two settlement class members submitted an objection to the terms of the settlement. Despite the objection, the lead plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Mark and Lori Fuehrer, have stated that they believe the objections should not deter the case from reaching the proposed settlement resolution, as only one couple among many participants has raised an objection. It was also noted that the Purina plant has made significant improvements to its processes in order to reduce the noxious odors emanating from the facility.

Response to the objection notice also pointed out that the settlement payouts would represent fair compensation for damages to livelihood and property experienced to this point. Those who object may bring forth future lawsuits should issues continue to arise that cause further damage to property values or physical health. Overall, the reaction from the vast majority of class participants has been extremely favorable, thus outweighing the isolated objections of two individuals.

Because of the objection to the class action settlement and its response, a fairness hearing will be overseen by the Honorable Judge Smith on June 25, 2021.

A Mission, a Passion, a Commitment

The personal injury attorneys at Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson are united in their shared commitment to advocating for those who have been harmed by the negligence of others throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The members of our legal team serve as passionate advocates for clients whose physical, emotional, and financial lives have been jeopardized at the hands of companies, individuals, and organizations who fail to exercise due care.

We refuse to back down in the face of corporations and other powerful interests whose expansive resources often intimidate and overwhelm innocent victims. When you or someone you love has experienced the detrimental impacts of another party’s actions or failures to act in accordance with their duties, our lawyers stand in the gap, employing our depth of knowledge and practical skill applying the law, to achieve just compensation.

To discuss your legal matter with an experienced personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer who can personally advise and assist you, contact us online or by telephone at (609) 528-2596 from New Jersey or (215) 337-4915 from Pennsylvania. Take the first step toward getting answers and asserting your rights, and reach out to arrange a consultation with one of our attorneys.