J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, A-6 September Term 2018

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE FERNANDEZ-VINA delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation239 N.J. 198,216 A.3d 169
Decision Date31 July 2019
Docket NumberA-6 September Term 2018,081128
Parties J.H., an infant by his Guardian Ad Litem, A.R., and A.R., individually, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. R & M TAGLIARENI, LLC, Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC, Defendants-Appellants. R & M Tagliareni, LLC, Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC, Defendants/Third-Party Plaintiffs, v. J.H., Sr., V.H. and L.C., Third-Party Defendants.

239 N.J. 198
216 A.3d 169

J.H., an infant by his Guardian Ad Litem, A.R., and A.R., individually, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
R & M TAGLIARENI, LLC, Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC, Defendants-Appellants.


R & M Tagliareni, LLC, Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC, Defendants/Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
J.H., Sr., V.H. and L.C., Third-Party Defendants.

A-6 September Term 2018
081128

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Argued March 26, 2019
Decided July 31, 2019


Danielle M. Hughes, argued the cause for appellants (Koster, Brady & Nagler, attorneys; Danielle M. Hughes, Red Bank, on the briefs).

John E. Molinari argued the cause for respondents (Blume, Forte, Fried, Zerres & Molinari, attorneys; John E. Molinari and Alexa C. Salcito, on the brief).

Michael J. Epstein, argued the cause for amicus curiae New Jersey Association for Justice (The Epstein Law Firm, attorneys; Michael J. Epstein, of counsel and on the brief, and Michael A. Rabasca, Rochelle Park, on the brief).

JUSTICE FERNANDEZ-VINA delivered the opinion of the Court.

239 N.J. 203

In this appeal, the Court considers whether liability should be imposed on a landlord based on a theory of regulatory responsibility over an apartment building's heating system, or based on a new common law duty to cover an apartment unit's radiator with insulating material.

On March 30, 2010, a nine-month-old infant, J.H., suffered permanent scarring when he was burned by an uncovered, free-standing cast iron loop radiator in an apartment that was owned and managed by defendants, R & M Tagliareni, LLC, and Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC (collectively, defendants).

On the night of the accident, J.H. was under the supervision of his father, James,1 who placed J.H. in a twin bed that did not have railings. The bed was adjacent to a radiator that did not have a cover. The next morning, J.H. was discovered lying on the floor with his head pressed against the hot radiator. J.H. was then rushed to a hospital where it was

216 A.3d 172

determined that he had third-degree burns on his head, right cheek, and left arm.

J.H. and his guardian ad litem, A.R., acting both on behalf of J.H. and individually (collectively, plaintiffs), filed suit against defendants alleging that their negligence was responsible for J.H.'s injuries. Following discovery, the trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that defendants did

239 N.J. 204

not owe a common law duty of care to place a cover on the apartment's radiator. The trial court further held that, based on a plain reading of N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d), radiators are not encompassed by the term "heating system" and, as a result, the regulation did not require defendants to cover the radiator with insulating material.

The Appellate Division reversed the trial court's summary judgment ruling, concluding that, under the common law, defendants maintained sufficient control over the heat emanating from the radiator such that a duty of care was owed to J.H. as a guest staying in the apartment. According to the Appellate Division, whether that duty was violated was a question for a jury to consider. Regarding the regulatory issue, the Appellate Division concluded that plaintiffs should be allowed the opportunity to argue at trial that N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d) imposed a duty of care upon defendants to prevent the radiator from burning J.H., and that the duty was breached.

After considering the parties' arguments, we are unpersuaded that N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d) imposes any regulatory duty on landlords to cover in-unit radiators with insulating material or a cover. The regulatory scheme provides no evidence of an express or implied intent to include radiators as part of the "heating system" required to be insulated. Having concluded that no such regulatory duty has been imposed, and because the tenants in this case maintained exclusive control over the heat emanating from the radiator, we decline to impose on landlords a new common law duty to cover all in-unit radiators. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division and reinstate the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants.

I.

A.

This action arises from the injuries nine-month-old J.H. suffered in a Jersey City apartment managed and owned by defendants. At

239 N.J. 205

the time of the accident, J.H. was under the supervision of his father, James, who was staying at the apartment for the night. James's estranged wife, V.H., lived in the apartment along with her two daughters. At some point in the early morning hours of March 30, J.H. awoke crying in the car seat he was sleeping in. James removed J.H. from the car seat and placed him in a twin bed to sleep with his ten-year-old stepsister.

J.H. was swaddled in blankets to prevent him from falling out of the bed, which did not have rails. The bed was adjacent to a steam-heated cast iron loop radiator. Later that morning, at approximately 6:30 a.m., J.H.'s stepsister found him lying on the floor with his head pressed against the radiator. J.H. was immediately taken to the hospital, where it was determined that he had third-degree burns on his head, right cheek, and left arm, which resulted in permanent scarring. Dr. Hani Mansour advised that due to the severity of J.H.'s burns, J.H. had to have been in direct contact with the radiator for "an extended period of time."

As a result of the seriousness of J.H.'s injuries, the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office investigated the apartment as part of a child abuse investigation. While observing the radiator, Detective Andrew

216 A.3d 173

Dellaquila noticed a piece of dried skin and dark colored hairs attached to the exterior of the radiator. Thereafter, the investigating detectives spoke with the building's superintendent, Francisco Nieves. Nieves escorted Detective Dellaquila down to the basement to show him the boiler room, which was locked and under the exclusive control of defendants. Nieves explained that while the individual apartments were not equipped with thermostat controls, the radiators in each room of the apartments could be shut off by the tenants through valves located at the base of each radiator unit.

Police officers arrested James, and he subsequently pled guilty to fourth-degree child abuse or neglect, contrary to N.J.S.A. 9:6-1 and -3.

239 N.J. 206

B.

On October 7, 2014, plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, alleging defendants' negligence was the cause of J.H.'s injuries. Defendants denied the allegations and also filed a third-party complaint against James, V.H., and Linda -- V.H.'s sister2 -- claiming that they, as tenants, had control over the apartment's heating and were therefore responsible for J.H.'s injuries.

At his deposition, Robert Tagliareni testified that none of his tenants at the property were ever burned by coming into contact with a radiator, and none ever asked for a radiator cover or complained about not having one. Further, he said that he and his property managers never discussed putting covers on radiators because he said he was never told he needed to do so. Tagliareni testified:

I'm registered with the Department of Housing and Economic Development in the State of New Jersey. They come in every five years, go through the building from top to bottom. They give you your registration and green card, which I have. The City of Jersey City has ... been in the apartment from time to time. They do inspections. Code Enforcement. I have never been cited with that. I had inspections from insurance companies, I never was cited with that.

Defendants' apartment building is inspected by the Bureau of Housing Inspection, part of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), for compliance with the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law, N.J.S.A. 55:13A-1 to -28, and Regulations for Maintenance of Hotels and Multiple Dwellings, N.J.A.C. 5:10-1.1 to - 29.1. Myles Pryor, an inspector for the Bureau, inspected defendants' apartment building and its individual units in 2010.

Pryor testified at his deposition that in order to ensure that hotels and multiple family dwelling units are properly maintained and do not pose a threat to the health and safety of their inhabitants, the Bureau performs inspections every five years. Pryor testified that during the course of his inspections he has seen radiators that do not have any sort of radiator cover on them and that he would not issue a violation to a property owner for not

239 N.J. 207

having covers on radiators. Based on his training as a housing inspector, Pryor testified that it is his understanding that there is no requirement under the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law that radiators be covered.

The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that defendants did not owe J.H. a common law duty to cover the tenants' radiator. Regarding the regulatory duty, the trial court determined that radiators were not meant to be included in the term...

To continue reading

Request your trial
21 practice notes
  • Grewal v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, MER-C-137-13
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 17 de junho de 2021
    ...both statutory provisions are devoid of any language requiring that the Bureau prove that a loss occurred. J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 214 (2019) (quoting U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Hough, 210 N.J. 187, 199 (2012), and stating that, "Whether construing a statute or a regulation, it i......
  • In re Attorney Gen. Law Enforcement Directive Nos. 2020-5 & 2020-6, DOCKET NOS. A-3950-19T4
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 16 de outubro de 2020
    ...the Attorney General, an authority the Legislature has never acted to limit or curtail.5 See 240 A.3d 441 J.H. v. R & M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 216, 216 A.3d 169 (2019) (noting an agency's construction of a statute over 465 N.J.Super. 147 years without legislative interference genera......
  • Estate of Campagna v. Pleasant Point Props., LLC, DOCKET NO. A-2989-18T1
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • 17 de junho de 2020
    ...of construction that apply to the interpretation of statutes guide our interpretation of regulations.’ " J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 216, 216 A.3d 169 (2019) (quoting 464 N.J.Super. 176 Headen v. Jersey City Bd. of Educ., 212 N.J. 437, 451, 55 A.3d 65 (2012) ). If a regulatio......
  • Bank of Am. v. R.H. Surgent, LLC, A-5423-18
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 31 de agosto de 2022
    ...on minor points do not" preclude summary judgment. Gilbert v. Stewart, 247 N.J. 421, 442 (2021) (citing J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 210 (2019)). If there is no genuine issue of fact, the court then must decide whether the lower court's ruling on the law was correct. Liberty S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Grewal v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, MER-C-137-13
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 17 de junho de 2021
    ...both statutory provisions are devoid of any language requiring that the Bureau prove that a loss occurred. J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 214 (2019) (quoting U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Hough, 210 N.J. 187, 199 (2012), and stating that, "Whether construing a statute or a regulation, it i......
  • In re Attorney Gen. Law Enforcement Directive Nos. 2020-5 & 2020-6, DOCKET NOS. A-3950-19T4
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 16 de outubro de 2020
    ...the Attorney General, an authority the Legislature has never acted to limit or curtail.5 See 240 A.3d 441 J.H. v. R & M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 216, 216 A.3d 169 (2019) (noting an agency's construction of a statute over 465 N.J.Super. 147 years without legislative interference genera......
  • Estate of Campagna v. Pleasant Point Props., LLC, DOCKET NO. A-2989-18T1
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • 17 de junho de 2020
    ...of construction that apply to the interpretation of statutes guide our interpretation of regulations.’ " J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 216, 216 A.3d 169 (2019) (quoting 464 N.J.Super. 176 Headen v. Jersey City Bd. of Educ., 212 N.J. 437, 451, 55 A.3d 65 (2012) ). If a regulatio......
  • Bank of Am. v. R.H. Surgent, LLC, A-5423-18
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • 31 de agosto de 2022
    ...on minor points do not" preclude summary judgment. Gilbert v. Stewart, 247 N.J. 421, 442 (2021) (citing J.H. v. R&M Tagliareni, LLC, 239 N.J. 198, 210 (2019)). If there is no genuine issue of fact, the court then must decide whether the lower court's ruling on the law was correct. Liberty S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT