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Philip Odett's Client Found Not Liable at Arbitration

May 27, 2016

Zarwin attorney,  Philip J. Odett recently appeared for a mandatory arbitration in Cape May County, New Jersey.  The case involved a plaintiff who alleged she was severely injured after she fell on the walkway in front of the home she rented.  Odett, who works in Zarwin’s North New Jersey office, represented the Estate which owned the single family home.  A contractor, who was also named as a defendant in the case, was retained by the estate to replace the walkway.  The contractor demolished the walkway on a Friday and intended to replace the walkway the following Monday.  Plaintiff alleges she fell on the walkway on Sunday (subsequent to the walkway being removed but prior to the walkway being replaced), after her bag got stuck on a stake placed on the walkway by the contractor.  
During the mandatory arbitration, Odett argued his client, as the property owner, was not liable for the independent contractor’s “incidental negligence.”  According to New Jersey case law, a property owner will only be liable for the independent contractor’s “incidental negligence” during the performance of the contract if the owner: (1) retains control over the contractor’s “manner and means” of doing the work, (2) engages an incompetent contractor, or (3) contracts for the performance of an activity that constitutes a “nuisance per se.”  Odett reiterated to the arbitration panel that his client did not retain control over the contractor’s “manner and means,” they did not hire an incompetent contractor and the activity did not constitute a “nuisance per se.”  
The arbitration panel agreed with Odett and found no liability on the part of his client.  The arbitration panel ultimately ruled the contractor was negligent for the happening of the incident.  The case subsequently settled with no contribution from Odett’s client.  


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