Before Judges King, Carchman and Lefelt.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
This is an appeal from a summary judgment in favor of a commercial landowner and a snow-removal contractor. The motion judge ruled that the landowner had "no duty" to the security guard plaintiff to clear snow and ice on the walkway between buildings where he fell during his regular evening rounds.
We disagree. We hold that in this context, the owner had a duty to use reasonable care under all the circumstances for the safety of the security guard while on his rounds. Whether the landowner reasonably discharged this duty of care was a fact question for the jury in this circumstance. As to the liability of the snow-removal contractor, the motion judge made no ruling on its duty to the plaintiff but apparently granted summary judgment because the owner had no duty. We reverse and remand as to both defendants.
This action raises from a slip-and-fall on ice and snow which took place at about 6:30 p.m. on December 29, 1993. Plaintiff Arthur Moore worked as a security guard for Wachenhut Security Services (Wachenhut). Defendant Schering Corporation hired Wachenhut, an independent contractor, to provide around-the-clock security services at its extensive Union, Essex County facility. While performing his normal rounds as a security guard plaintiff slipped and fell on an accumulation of snow and injured his leg and wrist severely.
Plaintiff fell while walking between two buildings. He claimed he fell on the sidewalk connecting the two buildings. The record suggests that he might have slipped and fell on a macadam ramp connecting a concrete apron or "sidewalk" area between the buildings and the macadam parking lot. There is a dispute in the record about the snow-removal contractor's, A-L Services, Inc. (A-L), responsibility to clear macadam ramps connecting the parking lots and the sidewalks. A-L claims it only had a duty under the contract to clear the macadam parking areas and access routes, not ramps to the concrete walkways. Schering contends to the contrary.
Plaintiff reported to work at 4 p.m. By the time he slipped and fell at 6:30 p.m., plaintiff recalled that the snow had been falling about seven hours. He described the snow fall as "heavy." The snow where he fell was "at least three inches" deep. He never saw anyone plowing or shoveling snow in the area where he fell. On the day of the accident, Wednesday, December 29, the Schering complex was closed for normal operations because of the holiday week between Christmas and New Year.
Schering had engaged A-L for snow removal services. These services clearly included the road access for motor vehicles and the parking areas. A-L's services did not normally include the sidewalk areas between the buildings. The record is not clear about A-L's obligation to clear snow from the transitional macadam ramps between the concrete sidewalks and the parking areas. As noted, Schering claims and A-L denies any duty to clear these ramps.
On the day of the accident, the record is clear that A-L started clearing the roads and parking areas at 3 p.m. and continued until 7 p.m. A-L continued clearing on the next day from 5 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. For snow removal on sidewalks in the multi-building complex, Schering usually used a "snow-removal-team" of its volunteer employees activated as the need arose by its maintenance foreman. No "snow-removal teams" worked on the day of the accident, apparently because the ...