Visitor Question

Is the store owner liable if I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk outside his store?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Metuchen, New Jersey)

I was running on a sidewalk one evening at about 8:30 p.m. There were streetlights on, but I fell due to a cracked sidewalk (about 12″ long) in front of a store. One of the store’s workers came out to see if I was okay. Two women picked me up and helped me onto a bench. That night I was in severe pain.

I went to the doctor’s office the next morning and had an X-ray taken. I found out that I broke my wrist. This was 3 weeks ago. Is the storekeeper liable for damages? What can I do? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

The state of New Jersey has established general rules for these types of situations, which are set out in the common law. With regards to the liability of commercial property owners and the sidewalks in front of their stores, the controlling case is Stewart v, 104 Wallace St., Inc.

In the Stewart case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled commercial property owners have an obligation to keep abutting sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition. Failing to do so may result in liability for injuries sustained by pedestrians who are injured as a direct result of the property owner’s failure to maintain their abutting sidewalks.

The court’s rationale in holding commercial property owners liable, is the fact that these owners benefit from those same pedestrians using the sidewalk when it increases their sales. Sidewalks in front of commercial property can serve as an open invitation for those who pass by to purchase whatever items the store sells.

Commercial property owners’ liability is based on the legal theory of negligence. To succeed in a personal injury claim against the store owner, you must establish such negligence. To do so will require you to show:

  1. The sidewalk was unreasonably dangerous
  2. The property owner knew or should have reasonably known the sidewalk was unsafe; and
  3. You were injured

Based on the facts you present, you appear to have the basis of a personal injury claim. Because of the seriousness of your injury, you would be best served by seeking the advice and counsel of a local personal injury attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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