Accomplished Trial Attorneys


by | Jul 2, 2024 | Personal Injury |

On June 13, 2024, the New Jersey Supreme Court expanded liability onto commercial landowners.  In a 4-3 decision in Padilla v. Young Il An (A-43-22) (June 13, 2024), the Court found that owners of commercial vacant lots have a duty to maintain the public sidewalks abutting the lots in reasonably good condition and are liable to pedestrians injured as a result of their negligent failure to do so.

In Padilla, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries after tripping on a dilapidated sidewalk in Camden, New Jersey.  The sidewalk abutted a vacant commercial lot owned by the defendants.  While the defendants had owned the vacant lot for many years, they did not develop it, maintain it or purchase liability insurance.  The trial court and later the Appellate Division ruled in favor of the defendants relying upon binding precedent that exempted owners of vacant lots from such responsibilities.

However, the New Jersey Supreme Court did not agree with the Appellate Division and reversed.  The Supreme Court held that as a matter of fairness, all owners of vacant commercial lots have a duty to maintain abutting sidewalks. In doing so, the Court expanded the legal duty first espoused in Stewart v. 104 Wallace Street, Inc., 87 N.J. 146 (1981), which held that commercial landowners are obligated to maintain sidewalks abutting their active business properties or properties with structures on the lot.  The Padilla decision unequivocally expands liability for landowners to include vacant lots under this duty.

If you’ve been injured due to a neglected sidewalk or need to defend against a premises liability lawsuit, you will need a knowledgeable attorney to adequately represent your interests.  Do not hesitate to contact the law office of Hagner & Zohlman for such expertise.