Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors

CourtSuperior Court of New Jersey
Citation599 A.2d 924,252 N.J.Super. 295
Decision Date02 December 1991
PartiesEmily S. HOPKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Respondent. v. FOX & LAZO REALTORS, Jack Burke Real Estate Inc., Steve Fields, Pat Guerry, Douglas M. Sonier and Barbara A. Sonier, his wife, Defendants-Respondents/Cross-Appellants, and John Garver and Susan Garver, his wife, U.S. Homes, and Morgan M. Davis, Defendants.

Page 295

252 N.J.Super. 295
599 A.2d 924
Emily S. HOPKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Respondent.
v.
FOX & LAZO REALTORS, Jack Burke Real Estate Inc., Steve
Fields, Pat Guerry, Douglas M. Sonier and Barbara
A. Sonier, his wife,
Defendants-Respondents/Cross-Appellants,
and
John Garver and Susan Garver, his wife, U.S. Homes, and
Morgan M. Davis, Defendants.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division.
Submitted Nov. 6, 1991.
Decided Dec. 2, 1991.

[599 A.2d 925]

Page 298

Devlin, Cittadino & Shaw, Lawrenceville, for appellant, cross-respondent (John G. Devlin, on the brief and reply brief).

Charles Peter Hopkins, II, Shrewsbury, for respondents, cross-appellants (Charles Peter Hopkins, II, on the brief).

Arthur M. Greenbaum, of counsel, Douglas K. Wolfson and Judith Mendelson Richman, Woodbridge, submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae N.J. Ass'n of Realtors.

Before Judges PRESSLER, SHEBELL and D'ANNUNZIO.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PRESSLER, P.J.A.D.

This appeal raises the issue, novel in this jurisdiction, of whether a real estate broker in possession of residential premises which it is attempting to market for its principal by inviting the public to an open house has a duty to warn its invitees of a dangerous condition of the premises of which it knows or, by a reasonable inspection, should know. We hold that such a duty exists, and consequently we reverse the involuntary dismissal ordered by the trial judge at the close of the plaintiff's proofs.

On April 26, 1987, plaintiff Emily S. Hopkins accompanied her son and daughter-in-law, who were house-hunting, to an open house in Plainsboro to which they had been invited by a salesperson employed by defendant broker, Fox & Lazo Realtors.

Page 299

According to plaintiff's testimony, corroborated by her daughter-in-law, they entered the house, saw no one, and started to tour it on their own. They turned left from the foyer into the living room, walked from there to the dining area and from there to the kitchen, where a broker's representative greeted them and apparently left them free to continue their tour unaccompanied. The kitchen led to a family room which was one step higher than the front portion of the house. There were also a powder room and a laundry room on the higher level. Plaintiff waited in the family room while her family viewed the patio and outdoors. When she heard them reenter the house, she intended to meet them in the foyer where the staircase to the second floor was located. She started down the hallway from the laundry room unaware that there was a step down from the hall to the foyer. The floor on both levels and the step itself were covered with the same patterned vinyl, camouflaging, she asserts, the difference in the two levels. In any event, not expecting the step to be there, she missed her footing, fell, and suffered a serious fracture of her right ankle.

Although plaintiff had joined other defendants, by the time of trial only the defendant-broker and its agents remained in the case. 1 Plaintiff's theory of action [599 A.2d 926] against the broker was that it owed her, as a business invitee to premises in its possession, the duty to warn her of risks known to it or which a reasonable inspection would have revealed. Defendant moved for an involuntary dismissal of the complaint pursuant to R. 4:37-2(b) arguing first, that there is no such duty, and second, that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate, in the absence of expert opinion, that the location and condition of the step constituted a dangerous condition. As to the latter contention, the trial

Page 300

judge was satisfied that plaintiff's proofs were sufficient to raise a jury question. It was his view that a jury could determine, as a matter of its common experience and...

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4 practice notes
  • Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 16, 1993
    ...On appeal, the Appellate Division concluded that the broker had such a duty of care, and it reversed the trial court's judgment. 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 (1991). We granted defendant's petition for certification, 127 N.J. 567, 606 A.2d 377 The traditional common law approach to land......
  • Cerciello v. MacConchie, A-Z
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • July 5, 1995
    ...the person is an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser. Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, 132 N.J. 426, 625 A.2d 1110 (1993), affirming, 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 (App.Div.1991). See, e.g., Snyder v. I. Jay Realty Co., 30 N.J. 303, 311, 153 A.2d 1 (1959); Russell v. Merck & Co., 211 N.J.......
  • State v. McPhall
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 24, 1994
    ...such an absurd result at a time when it intended to be tough on drug sales in a school zone." Page 458 State v. Bridges, supra, 252 N.J.Super. at 295, 599 A.2d 919. In the face of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-12, a new category of offenders eligible for ISP cannot be created without express The order of ......
  • Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, C-772
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 26, 1992
    ...Hopkins (Emily S.) v. Fox & Lazo Realtors NOS. 34,573, C-772 Supreme Court of New Jersey Mar 26, 1992 Lower Court Citation or Number: 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 Granted. ...
4 cases
  • Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 16, 1993
    ...On appeal, the Appellate Division concluded that the broker had such a duty of care, and it reversed the trial court's judgment. 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 (1991). We granted defendant's petition for certification, 127 N.J. 567, 606 A.2d 377 The traditional common law approach to land......
  • Cerciello v. MacConchie, A-Z
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • July 5, 1995
    ...the person is an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser. Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, 132 N.J. 426, 625 A.2d 1110 (1993), affirming, 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 (App.Div.1991). See, e.g., Snyder v. I. Jay Realty Co., 30 N.J. 303, 311, 153 A.2d 1 (1959); Russell v. Merck & Co., 211 N.J.......
  • State v. McPhall
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 24, 1994
    ...such an absurd result at a time when it intended to be tough on drug sales in a school zone." Page 458 State v. Bridges, supra, 252 N.J.Super. at 295, 599 A.2d 919. In the face of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-12, a new category of offenders eligible for ISP cannot be created without express The order of ......
  • Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, C-772
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 26, 1992
    ...Hopkins (Emily S.) v. Fox & Lazo Realtors NOS. 34,573, C-772 Supreme Court of New Jersey Mar 26, 1992 Lower Court Citation or Number: 252 N.J.Super. 295, 599 A.2d 924 Granted. ...

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