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Premises Liability FAQs in New Jersey

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Posted on May 16, 2023

Before you blame yourself for a slip and fall or other premises-related accident, learn about premises liability in New Jersey. The failure of property owners to uphold their legal obligation of maintaining a safe property can get you compensated! Ask a Cherry Hill premises liability attorney to learn more.

What Is Premises Liability in New Jersey?

Premises liability is a legal concept that holds property owners and occupiers responsible for injuries that occur on their premises as a result of their negligence. Under common law, property owners owe a duty of care to visitors, which requires the property to be reasonably safe, to inspect the property for hazards, and to warn visitors of any dangers that are not obvious.

The New Jersey Premises Liability Act codifies many common law principles, such as the duty of care explained above, and applies to residential, public, and commercial properties.

What Is the Duty of Care That Property Owners Owe To Visitors in NJ?

Property owners and occupiers have a legal duty to keep their premises safe for visitors. In failing to do so, they can be held liable for any injuries sustained. Property owners owe a duty of care to visitors to keep their premises reasonably safe and free from hazards. The level of care that is owed to visitors depends on the visitor’s status.

What are the 3 Types of Visitors?

The three types of visitors, as it relates to premises liability cases, include:

Invitees: These are invited onto a property for business or commercial purposes, including clients, vendors, customers, and others. Property owners owe the highest duty of care under New Jersey Law to invitees, and must take reasonable steps to ensure the property is safe and hazard-free.

Trespassers: A trespasser enters a property without the owner or occupier’s permission. Property owners do not owe trespassers a duty of care under NJ law, except in limited circumstances if the property owner is aware of a potentially deadly condition on their property and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent harm. A property owner could be held liable for injuries involving a trespasser if they created artificial conditions to draw trespassers onto the property, knowing serious injury could occur.

Licensees: These people enter a property for their own purposes or as a social guest, present only at the consent of the owner. Licensees are owed a lesser duty of care than invitees, but property owners are still required to warn licensees of any dangerous conditions or known hazards on the property.

What is The Difference Between Premises Liability And General Liability?

Premises and general liability are two types of legal claims that can arise from damages or injuries that occur on someone’s property in NJ; however, there are some key differences between them.

Premises liability refers to legal claims that arise from damages or injuries that occur on a property as a result of hazardous conditions or defects on the property. Premises liability claims can range from injuries caused by uneven surfaces on your driveway to injuries caused by an animal. The focus of these cases is on whether the property owner or occupier breached their duty to keep the property safe and if that breached caused injuries.

General liability refers to any claims made from negligent or intentional harm caused by a person or business entity. They do not require the presence of a specific hazardous condition on the property, but rather focus on the defendant’s negligence or intentionality, and whether that behavior caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Who Can Be Held Responsible In A Premises Liability Case?

Property owners, occupiers, and managers can be held liable in a premises liability case. Determining the fault is a fact-specific inquiry, but fault may be attributed to one or more of the following parties.

The Property Owner or Occupier: Property owners and occupiers have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for visitors. If they fail to do so and someone is injured or suffers damages as a result, they may be liable for the injury or damages.

The Injured Party: The injured person may be partially or wholly responsible for their own injuries if they, say, ignored warning signs or engaged in reckless behavior. This is where New Jersey’s comparative fault rule may affect the damages awarded, based on the injured party’s percentage of fault. If a plaintiff is found to be 25% at fault for their injury, their damages award will be reduced by 25%.

Third Parties: In some cases, a third party may be held responsible for injuries or damages. For instance, if a contractor is working on your property and carelessly leaves material out in the open that results in someone’s injury, the contractor may be held responsible.

What If The Visitor Was Distracted During The Accident?

Distracted behavior may be a factor in determining the visitor’s percentage of fault, but it does not necessarily prevent them from recovering damages. Ask a Cherry Hill personal injury lawyer for more information.

What Are Some Examples Of A Premises Liability Case?

  • If you find yourself unsure of what would qualify as a premises liability case, here are some examples:
  • Slip and Fall in a Supermarket: An unmarked wet spot in the produce isle has left you flat on your back.
  • Assault in a Parking Lot: A group of teenagers, who have been loitering for hours outside of a store, harass and strike a middle-aged shopper in the face.
  • Inadequate Security: A patron of a nightclub is assaulted in the parking lot due to inadequate security measures.
  • Dog Bite: Your friend’s new dog attacks you, causing injury. Speak to a Cherry Hill dog bite injury attorney. 
  • Falling Object: You are struck by a falling object while shopping, due to improperly secured merchandise.
  • Elevator or escalator malfunction: A person is injured due to some type of malfunction on this equipment in a commercial building.
  • Swimming Pool Accident: A child drowns or is injured due to inadequate fencing or supervision of a swimming pool.
  • Amusement Park Accidents: A roller coaster has faulty restraints that caused a rider to be thrown from the ride and suffer injuries
  • Gym Equipment Injuries: A person injured while using the gym equipment due to a poor maintenance or safety measures.
  • Inadequate Lighting: An apartment building’s inadequate lighting in the stairwell or parking lot may make them liable for any injuries sustained.

What Is The Premises Liability Statute Of Limitations In New Jersey?

The statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of the injury. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, the deadline may be shortened or extended.

What is the “open and obvious” defense in New Jersey premises liability cases?

The “open and obvious” defense is a common one in NJ cases. It asserts that the hazard or danger was so obvious that any reasonable person would have noticed and been able to avoid it.

What is the “mode of operation” rule in New Jersey premises liability cases?

This is a legal doctrine that applies in premises liability cases that holds a property owner liable for injuries that occur as a result of the property’s business operations, even if the specific hazard was unknown to the owner.

What Is The Constructive Notice Rule?

This is a legal doctrine which holds property owners to have the knowledge of any hazards or dangerous conditions on their property that are observable and have existed for a sufficient length of time. For instance, this could be a nail sticking out of the breakroom kitchen table that has been avoided rather than fixed.

What damages can I recover in a premises liability case in New Jersey?

You may be able to recover damages for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other losses if successful in a premises liability case.

Recent Premises Liability Headlines

Familiar premises liability cases include that of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death in 2022 on an Orlando drop-tower amusement ride after employees failed to secure the seatbelt on him.

Another case involves a man who was beaten so badly outside of a Six Flags amusement park that he sustained permanent brain damage. This resulted in a $35 million verdict against Six Flags in 2017 for breaching its duty to exercise care in keeping its premises safe for visitors.