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Print Page Problems With Duplicative Maintenance
by Ron Davis

Problems related to a customer’s injury at a New Jersey shopping center are finally resolved, though not to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

The shopping center owner is Paramount Realty Services, Inc., and the customer’s injury occurred on a snowy winter day. The customer apparently believed that she would have no problems despite the weather conditions. And with caution, she reached the shopping center unscathed.

She then parked her car in the center’s parking lot, and from there she was able to reach the safety of the center entrance, where she shopped for a while, then left the center premises to find her car.

In doing so, however, she slipped on black ice and fell. As a result of her fall, she suffered severe, permanent and sustained injuries. She sued the center’s owners, claiming that her injuries resulted from “carelessness” on the part of the center’s owners and their tenants.

Moreover, she argued that the carelessness of the store personal allowed a dangerous and hazardous condition to exist in the shopping center parking lot. She added that as a result of that negligence and carelessness, she sustained severe, permanent crippling injuries.

In response, lawyers for the shopping center answered with a denial of liability for the woman’s injury. And they countered with cross-claims for “contribution and indemnification.”

In a previous similar case, a judge warned of the problems with duplicative maintenance efforts by landlords and tenants. He explained that the duplicative maintenance efforts by landlords and tenants would create confusion and interference with each other’s maintenance program.

That judge also warned of uncertainty regarding the areas in a shopping center that each tenant would be responsible to maintain. He also noted that uncertainty regarding the areas in the shopping center that each tenant would be responsible to maintain would encourage “shotgun” developments and confusion.

In another similar court case in New Jersey, a court of appeals held that a commercial tenant in a multi-tenant shopping center did not have a duty to remove snow and ice from a common parking lot.

“Here,” said the judge in that case, “the lease imposed a duty upon the property owner to maintain the parking lot for the shopping center. In furtherance of that duty, Paramount also entered into a contract to remove snow from the parking lot, and had in turn contracted with (a third party) to provide that service.”

(Spano v. Supervalu, Inc ., not reported in A.3d, 2016 WL 3943360)

Decision: September 2016
Published: October 2016

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