In New Jersey, as in other states, under what is known as “premises liability,” the owner of commercial or residential property has a duty to maintain the premises so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. Until 2013, the owner of property was only responsible for hazardous conditions on his or her property. A New Jersey Superior Court ruling has changed that, at least with respect to businesses and subcontractors.
In the case that expanded the New Jersey law, the retail Giant Wal-Mart had hired Eco-Lab, a subcontractor, to handle pest and rodent control at its store in Princeton, New Jersey. As part of the services provided by Eco-Lab, Eco-Lab technicians were required to cross adjoining property to set rodent traps around the perimeter of the store. One of Eco-Lab’s employees slipped on loose gravel while crossing the adjoining property and hurt his knee. Because the subcontractor was not an employee of Wal-Mart, he was not limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim. Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart. Interestingly, he did not name the owner of the property where he fell in his lawsuit.
At trial, the jury found in favor of the injured subcontractor, and Wal-Mart appealed, arguing that it could not be held liable for the conditions on property that it did not own. The appellate court denied Wal-Mart’s appeal, concluding that, because Wal-Mart required the worker to cross the adjoining property, the company had a duty to ensure that that property did not pose an unreasonable risk of injury to the worker.
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We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has suffered a slip and fall injury. To set up a meeting, contact us online or call us at 732-702-0333 for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold and Point Pleasant.