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Corrao v. West Jersey Corp.

April 25, 1951


McGeehan, Jayne and Wm. J. Brennan, Jr. The opinion of the court was delivered by William J. Brennan, Jr., J.A.D.


[13 NJSuper Page 344] Appellant, West Jersey Corporation, abandoned at the oral argument all points argued in its brief except the proposition that the plaintiff was not, in contemplation of law, its invitee upon that portion of its premises where plaintiff met with the accident for which he recovered judgment upon a jury verdict returned in the Law Division, Union County. If that proposition be resolved against the appellant, that is, if the trial court properly denied appellant's motion for judgment and left to

the jury the decision to say whether plaintiff was impliedly invited by the appellant to be at that place at that time, then the judgment below must be sustained.

Defendant, West Jersey Corporation, owned a multi-storied office building having several stores on the ground floor. One of the stores was let to defendant, Elizabethtown Water Company, Consolidated. A judgment of dismissal as to the Water Company was entered at the close of plaintiff's proofs and was not appealed.

Plaintiff, a window cleaner, was employed by Elizabeth Window Cleaning Company which was under contract with the water company to clean the windows on the leased premises. The two windows located at the back of the store faced on an areaway not part of the leasehold but reserved to the lessor's control. Each of the windows was completely covered with an iron bar grillwork, installed by appellant some years before the water company leased the store. The space between the outer sides of the panes in each window and the grillwork was too narrow to permit the washing of such outer sides from within the demised premises; it was necessary to go outside for that purpose.

Beneath the two windows was a stairwell in the areaway with stairs descending along the wall and used by the landlord's employees to reach the boiler room in the cellar. The stairwell was covered by a shed-like structure about three feet high erected by the appellant. The structure extended out from the building wall and for most of its length along the wall was flat roofed with a wood covering approximately ten feet long and four feet wide topped with tar paper. That part of it gave the appearance of a platform built level with the bottom of the window sill of one of the windows. The portion of the structure containing the door opening upon the stairway slanted down from the platform edge to ground level; the other window was located a foot or two above the slanted door.

Plaintiff had worked for the window cleaning company only one week and this was the first occasion upon which he

washed the water company's windows. His foreman that day, however, had washed windows on the premises for over 20 years. After the plaintiff and the foreman had cleaned the inner sides of the windows from within the store, the plaintiff went back to the areaway to wash the outer sides of the two rear windows. He stood first upon the slanted door, reached within the iron grillwork and washed the window above that door. Then he stepped up on to the platform to wash the window centered above it. As he stepped toward the window the platform gave way beneath him and he was precipitated into the stairwell, suffering the injuries for which this suit was brought.

His foreman had cleaned the back windows three or four months previously, standing upon the platform when cleaning the window above it. He testified he noticed at that time that the platform seemed shaky and said that when he finished he notified the appellant's janitor and complained that it should be fixed. The janitor denied this and also that he had known that the window cleaners stood on the platform while cleaning that window. He admitted, however, that when his own work required, it was his practice to stand upon the platform to clean gutters above the windows.

Plaintiff's foreman further testified that it was impossible to use a ladder to wash the window above the platform because "that shack is too wide. Ladder stays too far away from the wall. It can't support a ladder," and also that the iron grillwork covering the windows makes it impossible to stand in the areaway beyond the structure and to use a pole "because there is iron bar from outside. * * * no could pull the squeegee." This testimony was contradicted by a witness offered by the defendant, but in the determination of the question argued plaintiff is entitled to have that evidence accepted as true. Cirulli v. Licata , 10 N.J. Super. 449 (App. Div. 1950).

A landlord, who by express invitation or by invitation to be implied from acts and conduct induces a tenant or person admitted by the ...

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