SUMMARY JUDGMENT – ESSEX COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
10/18/19 – Owens v. Essex Plaza III Associates and Planned Building Services.
On January 7, 2017 at approximately 3:00 p.m., plaintiff alleges that she slipped and fell on ice as she was exiting her apartment building located at 150 Orchard Street in Newark. As a result, she sustained a bimalleolar ankle fracture requiring surgery with open reduction and internal fixation with the insertion of hardware.
After the close of discovery, Reena Shah filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss all claims against the owner, property manager, and snow removal company under the storm in progress doctrine. Plaintiff’s counsel vigorously opposed the motion under the theory that the defendants are not entitled to protection under the snow in progress doctrine since they undertook an affirmative duty to actually clear the snow and ice by having an onsite superintendent and snow removal company present in the area where plaintiff fell. Plaintiff’s counsel also argued that the residents relied upon their pattern and standard course of conduct during inclement weather and that at the time of plaintiff’s fall, the area had not been pre-treated and no snow had been cleared by 3 p.m. despite the snow falling since 9:30 a.m. Plaintiff retained a liability expert and meteorologist to support her claims.
Following lengthy oral argument over the course of two days, Judge Keith Lynott agreed with Ms. Shah’s arguments and reliance on recent and longstanding case law established in the State of New Jersey that the defendants did not owe plaintiff a duty to clear any snow and ice on the premises due to the presence of an active and ongoing snow storm. Judge Lynott was persuaded by our arguments and public policy considerations and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.