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Margarita Canini v. 423 Adams Street Condominium Association

May 15, 2012

MARGARITA CANINI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
423 ADAMS STREET CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-0182-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 7, 2012

Before Judges Sabatino and Ashrafi.

This case involves a pedestrian's slip and fall on a public sidewalk in front of a building containing nine residential condominium units. The injured plaintiff, Margarita Canini, appeals the Law Division's order granting summary judgment to the condominium association, defendant 423 Adams Street Condominium Association, Inc. ("the association").

Because this case is squarely controlled by the Supreme Court's recent opinion in Luchejko v. City of Hoboken, 207 N.J. 191, 211 (2011) (holding that a residential condominium association had no duty under New Jersey negligence law to maintain a public sidewalk in front of its premises), we affirm.

These are the pertinent facts, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).

On January 7, 2008, plaintiff was walking on the public sidewalk adjacent to the building located at 423 Adams Street in Hoboken. According to plaintiff, she tripped and fell on loose brick pavers that had replaced the cement sidewalk. Plaintiff fell on her right knee and right hand, causing her injury and pain. In particular, she had two surgeries on her right knee after the fall and required various other forms of medical treatment.

The building located at 423 Adams Street is comprised of nine residential condominium units. At the time of plaintiff's fall in January 2008, eight of the units were owner-occupied. The ninth unit was either empty or occupied by a tenant.

The association is the non-profit legal entity established by the owners who reside in the condominium. Pursuant to the Condominium Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8B-1 to -38, the association is "responsible for the administration and management of the condominium and condominium property, including but not limited to the conduct of all activities of common interest to the unit owners." N.J.S.A. 46:8B-12. According to the Master Deed for the property, "all owners of [u]nits in the [c]ondominium will automatically be [] member[s] of the [a]ssociation[.]" The association is managed by an executive board. The board members are not paid or compensated for their service.

According to the Master Deed, "[a]ll curbs and sidewalks" are "common elements" of the property. These common elements are subject to "[a] perpetual and non-exclusive easement in, over, and through the [c]ommon elements [i.e., the sidewalk.]"

The association is statutorily required to have "insurance against liability for personal injury and death for accidents occurring within the common elements[.]" N.J.S.A. 46:8B-14(e). The association currently has a policy in conformity with the statute.*fn1

The association retained Red Bridge Property Management, LLC ("Red Bridge") to maintain the property. Peter Slifirski, a Red Bridge employee, testified at his deposition that Red Bridge is in charge of the financial management of the building. According to Slifirski, "we [at Red Bridge] basically collect the bills; collect money from the clients; we process the checks; we interact with the unit owners [who] tell us what they want to have done in the building . . . [and] we get them contractors' proposals[.]" Nonetheless, he testified that all decisions regarding the property are made by the unit owners. Slifirski further explained that the association has no employees and that he is paid by Red Bridge, not by the association.

Slifirski did not know who installed the brick pavers in front of the building. He stated that the pavers were installed at some undetermined time prior to ...


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