Stores Not Individually Responsible for Communal Parking Lot

If you slip and fall in the parking lot of a shopping center, who is responsible? Just the landlord? Or do the individual stores have some responsibility?

This question was recently reviewed by the New Jersey Superior Court. A woman named Arlene Kandrac was injured when she tripped over a hump in the parking lot of Marrazzo’s Market at Robbinsville, which is part of The Shoppes at Foxmore shopping center.

Even though there were no adverse conditions – no ice or rain – on the day of the accident, Kandrac tripped when she walked around a car in the parking lot and fell on her face and suffered injuries as a result. In addition to suing the owner of the shopping center, Foxmoor Associates, LLC, she tried suing Marrazzo’s Market.

In this case the Marrazzo’s lease specified that it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the parking lot. Kandrac’s lawyers tried arguing that Marrazzo’s was nonetheless obligated to maintain their area of the parking lot. A lower court ruled that Marrazzo’s was not so obligated, and the Superior Court upheld that opinion.

The judge’s ruling said, “[A]s a general rule, when a commercial tenant in a multi-tenant shopping center has no control or contractual obligation to maintain a parking lot shared with other tenants, the common law does not impose a duty upon the tenant to do so.”

The judge said that since the store had no responsibilities for maintenance of the parking lot, and no control over the parking lot, it would be unreasonable to hold them responsible. The judge was also concerned that allowing the lawsuit against the store would encourage “shotgun litigation” which would result in people who were injured in a parking lot suing every store in the shopping center. The judge felt that the public interest would not be served by allowing this as it could also lead to conflicts and inefficiencies between stores that had different ideas about appropriate maintenance.

Personal injury lawsuits often involve multiple defendants, and the legal issues can be complicated. If you or a family member have suffered a slip and fall injury, contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.

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