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“NJ Ruling Heightens Landowners’ Winter Storm Liability Risk,” Law360


“NJ Ruling Heightens Landowners’ Winter Storm Liability Risk,” Law360

October 27, 2020
John M. McConnell

John M. McConnell and David J. Coppola, members of Goldberg Segalla’s General Liability group, wrote an article for Law360 discussing New Jersey decisions that reject the ongoing-storm rule and the potential effects on landowners’ duty to maintain their property going forward.

In the article, John and David go into depth about a recent holding in Berniz v. Atkins from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, that was favorable to a plaintiff who slipped and fell in a snow-covered driveway. The court overturned the trial court’s decision, reinstating the plaintiff’s complaint and citing recent caselaw questioning the relevance of the ongoing-storm rule and further questioned whether the rule was even a part of New Jersey jurisprudence.

“Where a property owner knowingly exposes an individual to an active storm and the hazardous, wintry surfaces that accompany the storm, that property owner will likely face liability—even if the property owner intended to treat the condition only after the storm subsided,” they write. “Just because there is a blizzard does not mean a property owner can remain idle while knowingly exposing business invitees to slick sidewalks and driveways. In the meantime, until the Pareja appeal is decided, New Jersey courts have made it clear that the ongoing-storm rule is counterintuitive to New Jersey tort law, which should better protect individuals from known hazards, like a snowy driveway during an active snowstorm. Considering the Appellate Division has issued a freeze warning for the ongoing-storm rule, the winter forecast calls for greater liability against New Jersey property owners as winter storms approach.”


NJ Ruling Heightens Landowners’ Winter Storm Liability Risk,” Law360, October 26, 2020




John M. McConnell is a trusted counselor to Fortune 500 companies and other publically traded corporations, renowned for his record of success in high-stakes litigation and his acumen in motion practice and trial advocacy. John’s clients include major banking and financial services companies, government entities, hospitality companies, large national real estate development and management companies, construction companies, product manufacturers, and publicly traded retailers. Clients turn to John for his aggressive and frequently novel use of motion practice to dismiss claims and favorably resolve disputes without protracted litigation—particularly valuable to large national companies with complex risk-management demands and sensitivity to litigation spending.

David J. Coppola focuses his practice on representing clients in a broad range of general liability matters, and is involved in all aspects of the claims-handling process, from inception through trial and appeal, including mediation. As a law student, David externed with the City of South Bend’s Legal Department, interned with the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, and volunteered with Legal Services of New Jersey’s Hurricane Sandy Legal Assistance project. Following law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Donna M. Taylor in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic/Cape May Vicinage.