Does a Property Owner Have a Duty to Ensure Property Illumination?
You’re visiting someone’s house after dark or you’re making a late-night trip to the store. There’s a light out and you don’t see a step or other obstacle in your path. You trip and fall suffering serious injury. Can you seek damages from the owner of the property (or the person who had the authority to control the lights?) Is there a duty to ensure that residential or commercial property is adequately lit, so that visitors would trip and fall over unseen hazards?
The General Duties of Property Owners in New Jersey
In New Jersey, as in all states, the owner (or person in control) of real property has a duty to maintain the premises in such a way as to minimize the risks of injury to persons legally visiting the property. The duty is not absolute, but instead requires that the owner take reasonable measures to ensure visitor safety. The owner owes no such duty to trespassers who may be on the property without legal right or permission.
The law does not identify the specific measures that an owner must take, but instead asks what a reasonable person would have done in similar circumstances. If the owner’s conduct meets that standard, there will typically be no liability.
Accordingly, the question that must be asked, when a person suffers injury because of inadequate or poor lighting, is what a reasonable owner would have done in the same situation. Would a reasonable owner have regularly monitored the premises for broken or burned-out lights? Upon discovering a lighting problem, what would a reasonable person have done? Would they have replaced the bulb, fixed the light or posted notice of the potential danger from a defective light? Would they have blocked off access to the part of the property that had insufficient lighting? If a jury determines that a reasonable person would have taken specific action, but finds that the defendant did not, the defendant may be held liable for any losses sustained.
Contact the Cintron Firm
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintron has worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or 917-494-5695 to set up an appointment.