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Often, when people get injured while traversing poorly maintained sidewalks, they file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner and typically, the Township as well.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has recently agreed to review a case which questions if the owners of vacant commercial lots can be liable to pedestrians injured by poorly maintained sidewalks abutting those lots.

The case is Alejandra Padilla v. Young Il An and Myo Soon An. In this matter, Plaintiff Alejandra Padilla slipped and fell on the sidewalk abutting a vacant lot in Camden owned by defendants Myo Soon and Young Il An. Claiming she suffered severe serious bodily injuries that left her with permanent disabilities impeding her ability to work, plaintiff sued defendants, alleging their negligence in failing to maintain the sidewalk created an unreasonable risk of harm to pedestrians.

The Superior Court judge dismissed the case based upon the binding precedent of Abraham v. Gupta, which found that property owners have no duty to maintain a sidewalk which abutts a vacant lot which was not generating any income.

The judge also rejected plaintiff's argument that defendants could have generated income by either developing or selling the property.

The judge distinguished plaintiff's reliance on Gray v. Caldwell Wood Prods. and Stewart v. 104 Wallace St. The judge pointed out that the plaintiff's accident in Gray occurred on a property with a vacant commercial building which could have generated income. The judge stressed that, while the court in Stewart held the owner of a commercial property had a duty to the plaintiff to safely maintain an abutting sidewalk, Abraham found that duty to not apply where the property could not generate income to purchase liability insurance, which is the case here.

In a published decision released on January 4, 2023, Appellate Division Judges Sumners and Geiger affirmed the trial court's ruling.

In that appeal, the Plaintiff renewed her argument that the case of Gray which involved sidewalks abutting vacant buildings, should apply because the property "was capable of generating income by operation of a commercial activity on it" and defendants "bought then sold the property for commercial profit."

Plaintiff further reiterated that due to a Camden municipal ordinance requiring defendants to maintain the property's abutting sidewalk, summary judgment was not proper because established case law commands that a jury consider whether defendants had a duty under the ordinance to maintain the sidewalk.

The municipal ordinance states: The sidewalks... shall be kept in repair by the owner... of the abutting property at the cost and expense of the owner... of the lands in front of which any such sidewalk is constructed.

The Appellate panel dismissed these arguments, saying that the binding precedent of Abraham v. Gupta remains good law that an owner of a non-income producing vacant lot owes no duty to the public to maintain the lot's abutting sidewalk in a safe condition, and Plaintiff's reliance upon the municipal ordinance stating that landowners are responsible for maintaining their abutting sidewalks is misplaced as the ordinance does not provide any private remedy to persons injured as a result of the breach of the ordinance.

Attorney Michael Confusione Esq. of Hegge & Confusione, LLC represented the appellant. Attorney Samuel J. Myles Esq. of Holston, MacDonald, Uzdavinis & Myles represented the respondents.

Following this ruling, the Plaintiff / appellant has petitioned the State's highest court to review the case and decide if the owners of vacant commercial lots can be liable to pedestrians injured by poorly maintained sidewalks abutting those lots.

The Court has just recently agreed to review the case.

The hearing schedule will be set once all the briefs have been submitted.

As previously reported here on FAA News, a Lakewood resident recently filed a lawsuit in Superior Court naming as defendants Township of Lakewood, County of Ocean, State of New Jersey, and Sunoco Gas Station over a personal injury which occurred while riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in front of the Route 9 gas station.

Lakewood Township's municipal ordinances state:


It shall be the duty of any owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or person in charge of any structure, whether residential, private or commercial, to keep and cause to be kept the sidewalk, curb or any parking area abutting the building or structure free from litter obstructions or nuisances of any kind and keep sidewalk, curbs, areaways, backyards or courts and alleys free from litter, solid waste or other offensive material.


No person shall obstruct or endanger, or place or permit anything to obstruct or endanger, the free passage or proper use of the public of any street, highway, sidewalk, crosswalk, bridge or entrance to any public hall or building, except as may be necessary while loading or unloading any goods, merchandise, materials or persons, or except as may be otherwise permitted by this section.

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