Dangers to Office Workplace Safety

Safety in the workplace extends beyond retail stores and warehouse facilities. There are many dangers that face employees in an office setting as well. Property owners and managers in New Jersey should have an understanding of the risks facing office workers and a plan to prevent injuries. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Human Resources Management, the greatest cause of injury to office workers is falls. This common mishap may be minimized by proper housekeeping. Filing cabinets should be kept in working order so they close properly, and walkways should be clear of excess. Maintenance staff should promptly remove snow, ice and water, as well as use proper signage when the floors are wet. Additionally, power cords and similar equipment should be stored correctly, rather than stretched across an aisle.

Employees may also benefit from quality workstations. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers should provide adjustable chairs that may reduce the frequency of back injuries. Lighting should be adjusted according to the work involved, and regular, thorough cleaning may reduce air pollution that triggers asthma and allergies.

An important aspect of office safety is educating the employees. Workers should be made aware of the ways to keep themselves healthy in the office. This includes proper posture and ways to prevent strain while lifting objects or looking at a computer screen for long periods of time. Employees should also know the company’s procedures in the event of a fire or other emergency. Bringing the employees alongside the effort to keep the office neat, clean and safe may prevent workplace injuries.

Preventing falls in retail stores

Business owners in New Jersey have a serious responsibility to keep their property safe for employees and customers due to the serious risks of slip-and-fall accidents. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, more than one-fifth of all emergency room visits are the result of a fall. Many falls occur in a public place, and some happen while a person is working. In fact, falls are reported as the greatest cause for missed work days. Due to the frequency of accidents, employers should take the necessary precautions to keep their retail stores safe and efficient for customers and employees alike.

The first step toward ensuring safety in a retail setting is proper training. Employees should know how to maintain safe facilities, as well as how to conduct themselves while using store equipment such as ladders. Another necessary component is vigilance on the part of the staff. Recognizing where falls are more likely to occur and monitoring those locations may help prevent injuries. Managers and employees should inspect the facilities as a whole regularly to check for potential dangers.

Maintaining clean facilities helps keep them safer, since items blocking walkways and loose or damaged rugs may be hazardous for customers. Such dangers should be removed or repaired immediately. It is important to repair any damage to stairs as soon as the issue is noted, and ensure that handrails are installed on both sides of the stairwell. Lastly, maintenance coordinators should regularly inspect the lighting fixtures throughout the store and replace burnt out bulbs as soon as possible.

Dog bites and an owner’s responsibility

Although dogs are often excellent companions that lend comfort and friendship to their owners in New Jersey, dog bites are a fairly common occurrence in the United States. DogsBite.org reports that in the year 2015 alone, dog bites resulted in over $570 million of homeowners insurance claims and expensive medical bills. Every year, there are about 4.5 million people bitten, and some are fatal. Many of those who survive these attacks develop infections or require reconstructive surgery. Statistics show that a majority of fatal attacks are inflicted by certain breeds, particularly Rottweilers and pit bulls.

All dog owners in the state must understand their responsibility to the victim in the event of a bite. According to the New Jersey courts, the owners are liable for an attack inflicted by their dogs on anyone who is legally within private property, or anyone who is in a public place. This liability applies even if the owner has no knowledge of previous attacks, or the dog has shown no signs of aggression in the past. If the victim adequately proves who the owner of the dog is and that the attack took place in one of the places mentioned above, the courts may then award compensation to the person who was attacked and injured.

If the person who was bitten had mistreated or acted aggressively toward the dog, the owner may not be responsible for the damages caused by an attack. Likewise, a person who approaches a dog that is known to be aggressive may be held responsible, rather than the owner, especially if the person was aware of the issue.

Tips for landlords to prevent slip-and-fall accidents

Slip-and-fall cases involve any situation in which a person falls on a property, resulting in injury. For property owners who rent out their spaces, it is important to note that they are not responsible for just their residents. According to the New Jersey Courts, property owners and managers should make sure that any known dangers are addressed as soon as possible. If the condition cannot be immediately rectified, visitors and property residents should be alerted to the situation. The only exception to this rule is adult trespassers.

According to RentPrep.com, landlords of rental properties can take several proactive steps to protect their tenants from unnecessary accidents. First, proper installation of building materials and flooring is essential. Second, a written record of all cleaning and maintenance expectations helps the employees of the property to understand their responsibilities. Having a specific checklist of jobs to get done keeps workers accountable, and it can help to ensure that important steps aren’t forgotten.

Third, landlords should require their maintenance crew to inspect and clean the premises regularly. Outside, prompt snow and ice removal lowers the risk of slips on the sidewalk. Inside, cleaning the floors thoroughly, as well as leaving proper signage when they are wet, may keep the walking surfaces safer. Fourth, the recommended cleaning products for the specific floor materials should be used in the proper amounts.

While slip-and-fall accidents are unfortunately fairly common, there are several preventative measures that property owners can take to protect their tenants and any other person that enters the premises. Proper care of the facilities, including careful maintenance and prompt response when an issue does occur, is essential for reducing the risk of an accident.

DESPITE THE MORE LIBERAL COURT DEFINITION OF AN “OCCURRENCE,” CARRIERS CAN STILL RELY UPON WORK PRODUCT EXCLUSIONS

On July 15, 2016, in an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division acknowledged the liberal definition of an occurrence under Cypress Point Condo Ass’n v. Adria Towers, LLC[1], finding that the entire insurance policy must still be considered when a carrier is defending its denial of coverage pursuant to a commercial general liability (“CGL”) policy.

In the case of New Jersey-American Water Co., Inc. v. Watchung Square Associates, LLC, et al., Travelers Insurance Company denied coverage under its liability policy issued to Third-Party Defendant/Subcontractor Vollers Excavating & Construction, Inc. (“Vollers”). In this case, Watchung hired Elizabethtown Water Company (“EWC”), who, in turn, subcontracted the excavation work to Vollers. Vollers was hired to both (1) excavate the entire property and install a retaining wall under its contract with another party (site contract); and (2) relocate the water main under the EWC/Vollers agreement.

In February of 2000, the slope failed. At the time, Vollers’ crew was engaged in both excavating the specific slope that failed and trenching for the water line about 70 feet away. Although damages were not specified in the original claims, Watchung ultimately alleged that the slope failure harmed it because of the time and costs involved in properly re-evacuating the slope and installing a more substantial retaining wall. Vollers submitted this claim to Travelers under its CGL insurance policy. The carrier denied the damage.

Travelers filed a motion for summary judgment, and Vollers offered specific defenses. The Trial Court found that under the current case law, faulty workmanship is not an occurrence so the Vollers’ policy provided no coverage. Moreover, the Court determined that the particular workmanship exclusion provided an additional basis to deny coverage. On October 11, 2013, summary judgment was entered dismissing all claims against Travelers with prejudice. It is from that Order that Vollers and EWC appealed.


[1] 441 N.J. Super. 369, 372-372 (App. Div.), cert. granted, 223 N.J. 355 (2015).

The Appellate Court acknowledges that in reviewing summary judgment, it applies the same standards that the Trial Court applied in ruling upon the motion. It affords no special deference to the Trial Court’s interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow from the established facts. Additionally, the insurer (in this case, Travelers) bears the burden of establishing that the matter in dispute falls within the exclusionary provision of the policy. Also, the Court acknowledges that “coverage clauses are interpreted liberally, whereas exclusions are strictly construed.” (citation omitted.) Finally, the Court holds that where the meaning of the policy is subject to two reasonable interpretations, the one supporting coverage will be applied.

The Court also determined that as with any contract, construing an insurance policy requires both a broad search for the probable common intent of the parties and an effort to find reasonable meanings in keeping with the expressed general purposes of the policies. An insurance policy must be construed “as a whole and effect given to every part thereof.” (citation omitted.) Finally, the construction of the insurance policy must be consistent with the insured’s reasonable expectations.

Vollers argues that the Trial Court error in holding the claims based upon faulty workmanship did not come within the meaning and scope of Vollers’ policy. It frames the issue that the soil movement meets the current terms of occurrence causing property damage because the February slope failure was a sudden event never intended or expected by the insured.

In dealing with the definition of “insured occurrence,” the Supreme Court has held that “the accidental nature of an occurrence is determined by analyzing whether the alleged wrongdoer intended or expected to cause an injury.” Cypress Point, supra, 441 N.J. Super. at 376 (internal citations omitted). Thus, the key determination of whether the occurrence required is satisfied by what was intended. Recent Law Review articles were cited by the Court in trying to analyze an “occurrence.” One such Law Review article noted that:

When one applies the relevant rules of insurance policy interpretation to the issue of whether construction defects constitute ‘occurrence,’ the inescapable conclusion is that construction defects are ‘occurrences’ unless the insurer can prove the policyholder actually expected or intended to do the construction work defectively and cause damage. New Jersey-American Water Company v. Watchung, et al., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1639, *12-13 (quoting, Christopher C. French, “Construction Defects: Are They “Occurrences”?, 47 Gonz. L. Rev. 1 (2011) at 46).

The Court has no suggestion within the facts that Vollers intended to cause the February slope failure. Accordingly, the Court must acknowledge it satisfied the “occurrence” elements of establishing that Watchung’s claim fell within the basic terms of the Travelers’ policy. However, the Court did not conclude its analysis there. Rather, it proceeded to determine if the “property damage” analysis was properly framed.

The Court acknowledges that had the February slope failure caused a landslide onto a highway resulting in damages to passing automobiles or personal injury to drivers or pedestrians, the Vollers’ policy would plainly cover claims arising from those injuries, even though caused by soil movement. The dispositive issue is not whether the Vollers’ policy covers property damage as resulting from soil movement, but whether the soil movement at issue here should be considered property damage under the policy. Viewing it through the prism of the Vollers’ policy, the excavation and resulting damages from the February slope failure was a business risk. It was not within the grant of coverage.

In quoting the seminal case, Weedo v. Stone-E-Brick, Inc., 81 N.J. 233 (1979), the Court explained that negligent craftsmanship can be both a business expense of repair and a loss represented by damage to personal property; however, the two consequences are vastly different in relating the sharing of cost of such risk as a matter of insurance underwriting. The Court quoted from Weedo as follows:

The risk intended to be insured is the possibility that the goods, products or work of the insured, once relinquished or completed, will cause bodily injury or damage to property other than to the product or completed work itself, and for which the insured may be found liable. The insured, as a source of goods or services, may be liable as a matter of contract law to make good on products or work which is defective or otherwise unsuitable because it is lacking in some capacity. This may even extend to an obligation to completely replace or rebuild the deficient product or work. This liability, however, is not what the coverages in question are designed to protect against. The coverage is for tort liability for physical damages to others and not for contractual liability of the insured for economic loss because the product or completed work is not that for which the damaged person bargained.

The Court analyzed its business risk with a stucco application. If the discoloration and peeling and chipping of stucco landed upon the homeowner or his neighbor causing damage, then the CGL insurance policy would provide coverage. If, however, the discoloration and peeling of the stucco requires replacement and repair by the tradesman, it is not a covered event.

Thus, in Cypress Point, the Court noted that “subcontractors failed to properly install the roof, flashing, gutters and leaders, brick and EIFS façade, windows, doors and ceilings” and were claims of defective work giving rise to replacement costs that “[i]n the insurance industry . . . are usually regarded as the cost of doing business and are considered a ‘business risk.'” Cypress Point, supra, 441 N.J. Super. at 373-374. By contrast, the claims that “the faulty workmanship also caused consequential damages to the ‘common area and unit owners’ property [including] damage to steel supports, exterior sheeting and interior sheeting and sheetrock, insulation in other interior areas of the building, both visible and latent'” were “vastly than costs associated with replacing the defective work” and within the scope of coverage. Id. at 374.

In the case of Vollers, the business risk of soil movement when providing proper excavation and an appropriate retaining wall are the very business risks it was hired to do. Even though EWC made no breach of contract or warranty claim seeking to have Vollers complete repair or replacement of the relocated water line, Watchung sought to compel Vollers to redo its own faulty work or hire others to provide proper excavation and an appropriate retaining wall. The damages Watchung sought were solely to correct the alleged defects in Vollers’ work and to put the site in the condition it bargained for had the excavation been performed correctly.

While Cypress Point seems to have extended the definition of occurrences, insurance companies are still readily relying upon the workmanship exclusions in defending coverage claims.

Amusement park safety in New Jersey

Nothing says summer fun like a trip to an amusement park. Although, in some cases, a trip to an amusement park does not necessarily end well. Problems in other parks around the country have caused residents to take a harder look at ride safety in New Jersey despite a decrease in incidents over the past few years. 

The Press of Atlantic City reports that New Jersey has some of the strictest amusement park safety regulations in the country. However, recent incidents across three states from Ferris wheel injuries to falls from roller coasters to a waterslide fatality have some residents questioning how New Jersey regulates amusement rides. 

Certification is required for all ride operators and maintenance personnel at the state’s amusement parks, with most parks conducting additional safety inspections on a daily basis. In addition to these precautions, The Department of Community affairs, which regulates amusement park rides, requires multiple ride inspections each year.

 According to a News 12 report, even in the most highly regulated amusement parks, there are some things that visitors can do to help ensure a ride is safe

  •          Immediately report unsafe conditions or behaviors to park managers
  •          All in-ride safety devices like lap bars, harnesses and seat belts should be double checked for security by riders or their parents
  •          Look for the green sticker that indicates the ride has passed New Jersey state inspection regulations
  •          Read, understand and follow all ride instructions such as age, size and health restrictions 

If park patrons are at all concerned about the safety of a particular attraction, they should not ride it. Also, remember that accidents can range from scrapes and bruises to concussions, and rarely, to death. While some accidents can be avoided by being an alert visitor, ultimately, the safety of amusement park attractions rests in the hands of park owners who bear the responsibility of inspection, maintenance and operation.

Child drownings in swimming pools can be prevented

As summer approaches in New Jersey, one way to beat the heat is to head to the pool. However, as we at Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law are well aware, pools can be dangerous environments for young children. Therefore, it is important that you take steps to lower the risk of a mishap occurring with your pool.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one way to prevent an accident or drowning is to make sure that young children are properly supervised. If you are having a pool party and some of the attendees will be children, you should make sure that anyone you put in charge of watching the kids is putting their full attention on them. It is too easy for a child to fall into the pool unobserved while the person who is supposed to be watching is distracted by something else.

If the child is going to be in the pool, the person should be standing close enough that the child can be grabbed easily if he or she starts to struggle. Life jackets are a great item to have on hand if there are going to be children around the pool or in it. They help keep the child’s head above water and are one of the safest tools that you can use to prevent a drowning.

If you are not planning to be around the pool, then you should make sure that a child cannot find a way to it. The easiest method for this is to simply put up a safety fence around the pool area. The fence should be outlined with an alarm and have a locked gate that cannot be opened by the child. Additionally, children should not be able to reach the latch on the gate and the latches themselves should have a self-closing mechanism. The height of the fence around the pool should be no less than four feet and the fence itself should completely surround the pool area so that children cannot find an alternate entrance. For more information about accidents that can happen on property, please visit our web page.

The facts about New Jersey spinal cord injuries

When people in New Jersey, and elsewhere, suffer trauma to the nerves, bones, soft tissues or vessels in their spines, it may result in a spinal cord injury. A serious medical condition, this may result from incidences including slip-and-fall accidents, motor vehicle collisions, sports injuries or physical assaults. Many people who suffer this type of injury are unsure of what to expect or how it will affect their futures.

According to WebMD, spinal cord injuries may be classified as incomplete or complete. When people suffer incomplete spinal cord injuries, they may still have some function and feeling below their injuries. With complete injuries, however, people lose their ability to move and feel below their injuries.

As a result of spinal cord injuries, people may experience a range of symptoms. This includes the loss of movement or sensation. The Mayo Clinic points out that some of the most common symptoms resulting from spinal cord injuries include the following:

· Intense stinging sensation

· Pain

· Spasms

· Difficulty coughing or breathing

· Loss of bladder or bowel control

Additionally, people may experience changes in their sexual sensitivity and function, as well as their fertility as a result of spinal cord injuries.

In addition to the symptoms people may experience as a result of spinal cord injuries, they may also suffer from a range of other complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, people may have a greater risk of developing urinary tract infections, kidney infections, kidney stones or bladder stones after suffering a spinal cord injury in a slip-and-fall accident or some other incident. Further, changes in their circulation may cause them to develop blood clots or to suffer from low blood pressure.

Unfortunately, spinal cord damage cannot be reversed. Thus, spinal cord injury treatments are generally aimed at preventing further injury, managing the relating symptoms and complications, and redeveloping motor skills and learning adaptive techniques. Initially, people who suffer spinal cord injuries may be immobilized using a neck collar or carrying board. In some cases, they may require surgery to help stabilize the spine. People may also be prescribed medications or require rehabilitative care.

COURT DENIES GANGLAND SHOOTING AS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PROPERTY OWNER GAS STATION

When New Jersey Courts interpreted Victim’s Rights/Negligent Security actions using the “totality of the circumstances” standards, the chances of obtaining a summary judgment on these claims decreased significantly. However, in the appropriate case with the appropriate facts, courts have been granting these motions, especially where there are both superseding circumstances and a lack of duty between the property owner and the victim of a crime. The court’s recent determinations in doing so provides a balance to this difficult area of law. That balance was affirmed by the Appellate Division, supporting the Trial Court’s granting of a motion for summary judgment, in White v. Getty Petroleum MKTG.[1] Knowing the firms involved in this matter, I suspect that there will be a Petition to the Supreme Court regarding that affirmation.

The facts in the case show that Plaintiff, Jerome White, was driving a known gang member, Mr. Parker, when he decided to get gas at the Getty gas station. Within ten to fifteen seconds of arriving at the gas station, Walter Gleaton approached the passenger side of the vehicle, had brief words with Mr. Parker, and then shot at both Mr. Parker and Plaintiff. One bullet fractured Plaintiff’s thoracic vertebrae rendering him a paraplegic.


[1] 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 136 (January 25, 2016).

The history between the two is that Gleaton and Parker were gang members and had a history of animosity. The evidence established that Gleaton had identified Parker to law enforcement as having committed a crime. Parker then declared, in gangland parlance, that Gleaton was “food,” that is, someone who should be killed for wrongdoing. Gleaton later recanted his report and Parker was released from jail, but the animosity continued.

The occurrence was at 2:19 a.m. at a 24-hour gas station owned and operated by the Defendant. Plaintiff proceeded with a Victim’s Rights/Negligent Security action, claiming that the Defendant breached its duty to protect Plaintiff and other similarly situated individuals from foreseeable criminal acts by third parties. Plaintiff contends that the business owner owes a duty to invited guests to maintain the business premises in a reasonably safe condition. Further, Plaintiff argues that to operate a gas station 24 hours a day in a location engulfed in criminal activity created a “magnet business” to crime. Plaintiff emphasized that no other nearby establishments remain open after midnight, in addition to the “extreme safety measures” implemented to protect employees of the gas station, including bulletproof glass. Plaintiff relied upon two experts who opined that the area was considered a “hot spot” for crime and that the gas station “ignored the public’s interests in its failure to take proactive measures to recognize foreseeable harm.”

Read complete article here – White v Getty Petroleum – Gang Shooting.pdf

Trespassers and New Jersey premises liability claims

Even if you suffer an injury due to a hazardous condition on someone else’s property, you may not automatically be entitled to compensation. At Cooper Levenson, P.A., we know that the legal status of a visitor on someone’s New Jersey property will determine the validity of the case. Knowing the laws that govern these cases can give you a good idea of how your claim may progress.

Generally, people who are on someone else’s property could be classified as the following: 

  •        A social guest, which is someone who is welcome to be on the property
  •        An invitee, which is someone who has been invited onto the property
  •        A licensee, who has permission to be on the property for his or her own purposes
  •        A trespasser, who enters property without the right to do so

Social guests, invitees and licensees are all protected under premises liability laws. For example, a licensee such as an electrician who falls due to a hazardous condition on the property may be able to sue the owner.

However, a trespasser who has the exact same experience may not be able to hold the property owner accountable for damages. New Jersey law states that property owners do not have any duty of care toward trespassers except to avoid willfully injuring them.

However, especially if children are involved, this general rule gets a little murky. If the property owner knew that the condition on the property was a risk and knows that children may be trespassing on the property, he or she could be held responsible. In cases such as that, the plaintiff would have to prove that the children did not know about the danger or the risk involved.

These cases are rarely cut and dry, which is why you should consult with a professional when considering a claim. For more information on this topic, please visit our page on property accidents.