Yesterday, July 12, 2018, in an unpublished decision in Molino v. Twp. of South Orange, the Appellate Division held that the South Orange Parking Authority (“SOPA”) was immune from liability related to snow and ice removal on a sidewalk adjacent to the municipal parking lot, where the plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on ice.
Long ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court confirmed that public entities enjoy immunity for snow and ice removal activities in Miehl v. Darpino, 53 N.J. 49 (1968). The reasoning behind immunizing public entities from such liability is that the public is greatly benefited by municipal snow removal services which cannot be held to a standard of perfection.
However, in Molino, the plaintiff argued that SOPA was removed from the category of not-for-profit public entity since it engaged in commercial-like activities, such as charging for parking and operating a jitney service, that generated a surplus in revenue. Despite turning what appeared to be a profit, the Court determined that the municipal parking authority may use revenue raised by charging for its services to defray the cost of managing the lot, and that it is permitted to operate at a surplus. The Court decided the fact that SOPA made money for its services did not render its activities “commercial” in nature so as to negate its classification as a public entity. Therefore, SOPA was immune from liability and plaintiff’s case against it was dismissed.
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