South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Landowner Responsible for Condition of Grassy Strip between Sidewalk and Curb
Description Appeals court held that a pedestrian who tripped over a tree root that was sticking up in a grassy strip between a sidewalk and a curb could proceed to trial. A jury could determine if there was negligence on the part of the property owner by failure to properly maintain the grassy strip.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Premises Liability; Negligence; Sidewalks; Grass
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Bedell was delivering newspapers at 5 a.m. in the dark on a street with no lights. Crossing the street to reach the sidewalk on the other side, he tripped and fell on some roots sticking up in the grass in a strip between the sidewalk and the curb. Bedell sued the property owner, the city, and a construction contractor working at the site for negligence for failure to remove the roots that caused him to fall and be injured. The trial court held that defendants had no legal duty with respect to the maintenance of the grassy strip and dismissed the case. Bedell appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. The property in question is commercial real estate. It is a row house development that was being renovated. Commercial landowners are responsible for maintaining abutting sidewalks in reasonably good condition and are liable to injured pedestrians for their negligent failure to do so. The grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb in front of the row houses is an extension of the sidewalk and structurally an integral part of it. Whether the landowner breached the duty of care to a pedestrian, by allowing roots to protrude from the grass, is for a jury to determine.

Citation Bedell v. Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society, ---A.2d--- (2004 WL 540462, Super. Ct., App. Div., N.J., 2004)

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