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Friday, February 8, 2008

Landlord Liability for Injuries

Compiled by Kenneth Vercammen, Esq. from various sources
Our office helps people injured due to the negligence of others. We provide representation throughout New Jersey. The insurance companies will not help Don't give up! Our Law Office can provide experienced attorney representation if you are injured Our website provides information on civil cases we can be retained to represent people. The law imposes upon the landlord or owner of any commercial or business property the duty to use reasonable care to see to it that the sidewalks and common areas are reasonably safe for residents and members of the public who are using them. In other words, the law says that the landlord or owner of a commercial property must exercise reasonable care to see to it that the condition of hallways and sidewalks are reasonably safe and does not subject pedestrians to an unreasonable risk of harm. The concept of reasonable care requires the landlord or owner of a commercial property to take action with regard to conditions within a reasonable period of time after the owner becomes aware of the dangerous condition or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have become aware of it. If there was a condition of hallways or sidewalk that was dangerous in that it created an unreasonable risk of harm for pedestrians, and if the owner knew of that condition or should have known of it but failed to take such reasonable action to correct or remedy the situation within a reasonable period of time thereafter as a reasonably prudent commercial or business owner would have done under the circumstances, then the owner is negligent.

If someone was injured falling down in the nursing home, a question of negligent and proximate cause must be answered.

What is the negligence of the nursing home? If no negligence, Kenneth Vercammen's law office will not handle the case.

Was the negligence the proximate cause of the injury?

If Someone falls and is injured- at the accident scene.

1. Stop . . . do not leave the scene of the accident. Have someone call an Ambulance, tell them where the accident occurred

2. Notify the property manager or owner, if possible. Insist they observe where you fell. For example, if you fall on a slippery hallway or sidewalk, notify the manager.

3. Get names and addresses of all witnesses Witnesses will be a tremendous help to you in any subsequent court action if there is any question of liability involved. Get the names and addresses of as many witnesses as possible. If they refuse to identify themselves, jot down any identifying details.

4. While waiting for ambulance, try to write down- Accident Information Date __ Time __ Location __ Weather __

5. Write Summary of accident __

6. Diagram of accident location

7. If you have any reason to suspect you were injured in the accident, go to a hospital immediately or see a physician promptly. You'll want it on record that you sought treatment right away, not in a week or so.

8. Write down name of Police Officers, Department and Badge Number, Ambulance crew, etc.

9. Do not assign or accept blame for the accident. - The scene of the accident is not the place to determine fault. Discuss the accident only with the ambulance and medical personnel. - Be cooperative with the police.

10. Have immediate photos taken of accident site.

11. Call a personal injury attorney immediately, not a real estate attorney. Call Kenneth A. Vercammen- Trial Attorney Attorney At Law (732) 572-0500 When you need help the most, we will be ready to help you.

12. Never give a signed statement to the claims adjuster representing the property owner's insurance company. The same goes for a phone recording. They may be used against you in court to deny your claim. Speak with your personal injury attorney first.

Financial Recovery if Injured in a Fall Down due to negligence of a landlord owner of a commercial property

1. Kenneth Vercammen Helps Injured persons A person who is injured as a result of the negligence of another person is what we in the legal profession refer to as a personal injury claimant. In other words, they have been injured as a result of an accident, and now wish to prosecute a claim against a negligent property owner and its insurance company. As the attorney of record, I will be bringing this action for the injured person. Therefore, I request that all clients do as much as possible to cooperate and help in every way. The purpose of this article is to describe the procedure that we may follow and give you sufficient instructions to enable you to assist us in this undertaking. Needless to say, helping us is just another way of helping yourself.

2. Clients should provide my office with the following 1. Any bills 2. All Hospital or doctor records in your possession 3. Photos of scars, cuts, bruises 4. Photos of damage to your clothes and property 5. Photos of accident site 6. Major Med Card 7. Paystub if lost time from work


It is important that you -- 1. DO NOT discuss your case with anyone except your doctors and attorney. 2. DO NOT make any statements or give out any information. 3. DO NOT sign any statements, reports, forms or papers of any kind. 4. If you or any witnesses should move, be sure to notify your attorney of the new address. 5. Refer to your attorney anyone who asks you to sign anything or to make any statement or report or who seeks information concerning your case. 6. Direct your doctor and other treatment providers not to furnish or disclose any information concerning your case to any entity other than your insurance company without YOU AND YOUR ATTORNEY'S WRITTEN PERMISSION. 7. You may have insurance coverage such as Blue Cross, Blue Shield or Major Medical which require prompt attention. However, be sure to have your treatment providers send bills immediately to all of your insurance companies. 8. Notify your attorney promptly of any new developments. Small things may be important. Keep your attorney informed. 9. Maintain accurate records of all information and data pertaining to your case.

3. Attorney- Client Confidential Relationship First, I want to thank our clients for giving me the opportunity to assist them in their case. I am a legal professional and I have great pride and confidence in the legal services that I perform for clients during our relationship as attorney-client. If you have concerns about your case, please call my office. (732) 572-0500 We feel that this case is extremely important not only to you, but to this office as well. This is not simply a matter of obtaining just compensation for you, although that is very important; we take professional pride in guiding our clients carefully through difficult times to a satisfactory conclusion of their cases.

4. Submit Bills to Major Medical Immediately

5. Diary We want you to keep a diary of your experiences since your accident. In addition to this daily record, we also ask you to start describing a single day in the course of your life. In other words, describe what you do when you get up in the morning, the first thing you do after you go to work, what type of work and effort you put into your employment, what activities you engage in after work, etc. In other words, we need you to describe the changes in your working life, your playing life, your life as a husband or wife or child or parent. In your written description of your day, we would appreciate your explanation in the greatest detail possible and in your own words how the accident and subsequent injuries have affected your life, your personality, and your outlook. Remember that suffering does not entail mere physical pain; suffering can be emotional and can be transmitted to your family, friends, and co-workers. Keep a diary of all matters concerning this accident-no matter how trivial you think it may be. You should include notes on the treatments you receive, therapy, casts, appliances, hospitalization, change of doctors, change of medication, symptoms, recurrence, setbacks, disabilities and inconveniences. If you have any doubt about the propriety of including some particular information, please call the office and let us assist you.

6. Record expenses You can also begin to set up a system for recording the expenses incurred in conjunction with your claim in minute detail. Medical and legal expenses are a strong part of the value of your lawsuit, so good records of these expenses must be kept at all times. From time to time, however, there will be expenses incurred that you must keep track of yourself. We ask you to make every effort to avoid any possible error or inaccuracy as jurors have a relentless reverence for the truth. Keep your canceled checks and your list of expenses together, for we will need them at a later date. Your attorney will keep track of your legal expenses, which may include costs of filing, service of complaint, investigation, reports, depositions, witness fees, hospital/ medical records, etc.

7. Investigation and Filing of Complaint Procedurally, the following events occur in most personal injury cases. First, your attorney must complete the investigation. This will involve the collection of information from your physician, your employer, and our investigator. We will need your doctors to provide us with copies of all bills, medical records and possibly a medical report. When we feel that we have sufficient information to form an opinion as to the financial extent of your damages, we will commence negotiations with the opposition for a settlement. If the insurance company will not make an adequate offer, then a Complaint and Case Information Statement is prepared by your attorney. It is filed in the Superior Court, Law Division. Your attorney then will prepare a summons and have the defendants personally served with the Summons and Complaint. The defendant, through their insurance company, must file an "Answer" within 35 days.

Kenneth Vercammen's office generally does not file a Complaint until the treating doctor signs an affidavit of merit setting forth why the injury is permanent and the diagnostic tests upon which the permanent injury is based. You will need to speak with your doctor to ask if you have a permanent injury.

8. Interrogatory Questions and Discovery The Answer is followed by a request for written interrogatories. These are questions that must be answered by each party. The Superior Court has set up certain Form Interrogatory Questions which are contained in the Rules of Court. Generally, written interrogatories are followed by the taking of depositions, which is recorded testimony given under oath by any person the opposition wishes to question. The deposition is just as important as the trial itself. In the event you are deposed during the course of this action, you will receive detailed instructions as to the procedure and will be required to watch a videotape. After taking depositions, the case will be set down for an Arbitration. If the parties do not settle after the Arbitration, the case will be given a trial call date. Altogether, these procedures may take from six months to several years, and your patience may be sorely tried during this time. However, it has been our experience that clients who are forewarned have a much higher tolerance level for the slowly turning wheels of justice.

9. Doctor/ Treatment It will help your case to tell us and your doctors about any injury or medical problems before or after your accident. Good cases can be lost by the injured person concealing or forgetting an earlier or later injury or medical problem. Insurance companies keep a record of any and all claims against any insurance company. The insurance company is sure to find out if you have ever made a previous claim. Tell your doctors all of your complaints. The doctor's records can only be as complete as what you have given. Keep track of all prescriptions and medicines taken and the bills. Also save all bottles or containers of medicine.

10. Bills Retain all bills which relate to your damages, including medical expenses, hospital expenses, drugs and medicines, therapy, appliances, and anything needed to assist in your recovery. If possible, pay these bills by check or money order, so that a complete record may be kept. If this is not possible, be certain to obtain a complete receipt with the bill heading on it, to indicate where the receipt came from and the party issuing it.

11. Evidence Be certain to keep anything that comes into your possession which might be used as evidence in your case, such as shoes, clothing, glasses, photographs, defective machinery, defective parts, foreign substances which may have been a factor in your accident, etc. Be sure to let the office know that you have these items in your possession.

12. Photographs Take photographs of all motor vehicles, accident site, etc., that may be connected--directly or indirectly--with your accident. Again, be sure to let the office know that you have such photographs.

13. Keep your attorney advised Keep this office advised at all times with respect to changes in address, important changes in medical treatment, termination of treatment, termination of employment, resumption of employment, or any other unusual change in your life.

14. Lost wages Keep a complete record of all lost wages. Obtain a statement from your company outlining the time you have lost, the rate of salary you are paid, the hours you work per week, your average weekly salary, and any losses suffered as a result of this accident. Where possible, also obtain other types of evidence such as ledger sheets, copies of time cards, canceled checks, check stubs, vouchers, pay slips, etc.

15. New information In the event that any new information concerning the evidence in this case comes to your attention, report this to the attorney immediately. This is particularly true in the case of witnesses who have heretofore been unavailable.

Do not discuss the case The insurance company may telephone you and record the conversation or send an adjuster (investigator) who may carry a concealed tape recorder. You should not discuss your case with anyone.

The value of a case depends on the Permanent Injury, medical treatment and doctor's reports Undoubtedly, you have questions as to how much your case is worth. We are going to be frank: The fact of the matter is there can be no answer to this question until we have completed the investigation in your case. Once we complete our investigation, of course, we can make a determination as to the amount of the defendant's liability, if any, and even at that we will only be at a starting point. After that, we must obtain all necessary information concerning your lost wages, your disability, your partial disability, your life changes, and your prognosis. You may rest assured of one thing, however, and that is the fact that your case will not be settled below its true value, that is the fair compensation for the injuries you have received. You may also rest assured that no settlement agreement will be entered into without your consent.

Conclusion We appreciate that this is a great deal of information to absorb. We also appreciate that our requests for client's assistance have been numerous. However, we are certain that our clients appreciate having this information from the outset. Each request and bit of information given here represents an important part in recovering full value for your injury. Therefore, we respectfully request your full cooperation. If you have questions or concerns regarding these instructions, we encourage you to feel free to contact the office at any time.

HELD : A landowner owes a duty to its invitees to maintain its land in a safe condition, to inspect, and to warn of hidden defects whether within its power to correct or not. Monaco v. Hartz Mountain Corporation (A-58/59-02) February 9, 2004 This appeal considers the liability of a commercial landowner in a case in which a traffic sign, situated on the landowner's sidewalk, became dislodged and caused injury to an invitee. On April 18, 1996, plaintiff was employed by the Newark Board of Education, which was a tenant in a building owned by defendant Hartz Mountain Corp. As plaintiff exited the building, a gust of wind dislodged a municipal parking sign that was installed on Hartz's sidewalk. The sign became airborne and struck plaintiff on the side of his head, causing injury. Plaintiff filed suit against Hartz and the City for damages arising from the injuries.

1. In respect of plaintiff's claims against Hartz, the trial court erred in ruling that Hartz had no legal duty with respect to a sign it did not own. That issue was resolved in plaintiff's favor on Hartz's motion for summary judgment. Because that ruling was the law of the case, a court of equal jurisdiction had no right to "reverse" in the absence of substantially different evidence at a subsequent trial, new controlling authority, or specific findings regarding why the judgment was clearly erroneous. None of these conditions was satisfied.

2. A motion for directed verdict must be denied if reasonable minds could differ after accepting as true all the evidence that supports the party opposing the motion and according that party all reasonable inferences. Here, Hartz is a commercial landowner and plaintiff was an invitee injured on Hartz's property, which is located on a street that is a virtual wind tunnel. The injury occurred on a windy day when a parking sign installed and maintained by the City flew out of a sidewalk installed and maintained by Hartz. That sign was installed to advance the interests of Hartz and its tenants. Under relevant ordinances, the sidewalk was the responsibility of Hartz. Prior to the accident, the sidewalk beneath the sign was cracked. In the months prior to the accident, witnesses noticed that the sign was damaged. Hartz's property manager acknowledged that he personally inspected the area around the scene of the accident several times per week. Plaintiff's expert testified that a minimally competent inspection would have revealed the condition at the base of the sign, and he contended that even if Hartz did not have the right to repair the sign, it had a duty to inspect and notify the City of defects in it.

3. The principles governing a commercial landowner's liability require that the landowner exercise reasonable care for an invitee's safety. That includes making reasonable inspections and taking such steps as are necessary to correct or give warning of hazardous conditions or defects actually known to the landowner. The landowner is liable to an invitee for failing to correct or warn of defects that, by the exercise of reasonable care, should have been discovered. In a long line of cases, New Jersey courts have extended a commercial landowner's duty, when warranted by the facts, to cases in which the landowner had no control over the dangerous condition and the condition was not located on its property. Traditional jurisprudence clearly recognizes that neither ownership nor control is the sole determinant of commercial landlord liability when obvious danger to an invitee is implicated.

4. In Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo, 132 N.J. 426 (1993), this Court addressed whether a real estate broker owed a duty of care to potential buyers touring a house. The Court observed that whether a person owes a duty of reasonable care toward another turns on whether the imposition of such a duty satisfies an abiding sense of basic fairness under all of the circumstances in light of considerations of public policy. Such an inquiry involves identifying, weighing and balancing several factors, including the relationship of the parties, the nature of the attendant risk, the opportunity and ability to exercise care, and the public interest in the proposed solution.

5. Here, a reversal is in order regardless whether this Court applies the classic commercial landowner liability standard or the more fluid Hopkins rule. Based on the traditional standard, Hartz had a duty to exercise reasonable care for plaintiff's safety, including making reasonable inspections of its own property and the abutting sidewalk and taking such steps as were necessary to correct or give warning of a hazardous condition. That duty existed whether the condition was or was not within Hartz's power to control. The same result flows from the application of the Hopkins standard. Hartz had the ability to, and indeed did, regularly inspect its premises and the sidewalk it had installed. Very little additionally was required of it: repair the sidewalk, give notice to the City of the damage, or take some other action to warn or otherwise protect invitees from danger. Hartz owed a legal duty to plaintiff. It was for the jury to determine whether that duty was satisfied.

6. In respect of the City's arguments, the City acknowledged responsibility for the sign and plaintiff submitted enough evidence to require a trial on the question of whether the City knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. At trial, if a jury finds that both the City and Hartz breached a duty to plaintiff, it will be required to grapple with concepts of concurrent negligence along with issues of proximate cause.