Search Site
The Downside to Higher Ground: Appellate Division affirms finding of a townhome owner’s negligence and responsibility for water damage to a below unit caused by a prolonged leaking washing machine hose

On August 1, 2018, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division ruled in favor of plaintiff in the matter captioned Joseph S. D’Elia v. Joyce Campisi and Liberty Mutual Mid-Atlantic Insurance Company, Docket No.: A-4426-16T3, where defendant sought an appeal from a trial court bench decision where she was held liable for damage to a townhouse unit owned by plaintiff, caused by a water leak from a washing machine hose in defendant’s residence which was directly above plaintiff’s residence.

At the time of the leak, plaintiff leased his unit to a tenant, a contractor by trade, who assessed the leak in the unit and opined that based on the number of leaks, the size of the whole in the ceiling, and the extent of the damage, that the leak had been “transpiring over a matter of weeks.” The tenant prepared an estimate of $725 to repair the damage to plaintiff’s unit.

During the bench trial, defendant testified that in the five years that she had resided in the townhouse unit, she had never had issues with water leaking in general or from her washer and dryer, nor had she ever received complaints from other tenants. Upon an inspection of defendant’s unit and after pulling-out the washer-dryer unit, it was discovered that the rear hoses attached to the washer were leaking, that “water was all over,” and the water was permeating down into the sheetrock. Defendant paid for all repairs to her washer. Considering the length of time that the leak existed in defendant’s unit, the trial court delivered its decision from the bench and awarded $600 to plaintiff plus fees and costs.

The Appellate Division echoed the reasoning of the court which stated that “defendant failed to exercise a reasonable degree of vigilance, maintenance, precaution and care,” and specifically noted the length of time of the leak as an aggravating factor for finding defendant negligent.  In affirming the judgment of the bench, the Superior Court placed an increased duty of care on those living above others when it stated that “defendant had a responsibility to be vigilant and to maintain her appliances particularly when living above another residence.”  Defendant was not able to side-step liability in this matter by simply denying any such notice of her leaking washer; ignorance did not relieve defendant of the responsibility of due care and maintenance.

However, the Appellate Division noted that in Siddons v. Cook, 382 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2005) defendant was relieved of liability where the damaged portion of the washer’s plastic feed line was not visible and a plumber certified that the visible portion of the hose was undamaged. Here, defendant did not offer such testimony and the “court was not obliged to accept defendant’s uncorroborated testimony as disputed.” Further, in Siddons, plaintiff did not offer any evidence of the length of time that the leaks existed. Therefore, based on the lack of defense-oriented testimony from a plumber or some similarly qualified individual about the visibility of the damaged portion of the hose and plaintiff’s testimony about the length of time that the leaks existed, the Appellate Division easily affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • The Murphy Administration plans to spend $200 million on wind port.
    4 hours ago
  • NJDEP aims to simplify permitting process.
    1 day ago
  • U.S. Supreme Court will hear PennEast Pipeline appeal of New Jersey eminent domain dispute.
    4 weeks ago
  • Fishing to be allowed in future wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City.
    1 month ago

Recent Blog Posts

Recent Appellate decision emphasizes the consequences of failing to perform due diligence

In December 2020, the NJ Appellate Division published a decision emphasizing the importance for purchasers of property use their “due diligence” period to learn as much as possible about the
Read More
Recent Appellate decision emphasizes the consequences of failing to perform due diligence

New Jersey has ambitious goals for emission reductions

New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act (“GWRA”) calls for New Jersey to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from their 2006 levels by 2050. In January 2020, Governor Murphy
Read More
New Jersey has ambitious goals for emission reductions

San Diego Receives Federal Funding to Fight Mexican Sewage

San Diego has just received substantial federal funding from the EPA to address a chronic problem: raw sewage coming from Tijuana Mexico. That sewage has been migrating over the border
Read More
San Diego Receives Federal Funding to Fight Mexican Sewage

New Jersey Supreme Court rules for NJ Transit in insurance claim for damages due to Superstorm Sandy

A New Jersey Supreme Court opinion issued on January 27, 2021 affirmed an Appellate Division decision in favor of NJ Transit over its insurers. In 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit
Read More
New Jersey Supreme Court rules for NJ Transit in insurance claim for damages due to Superstorm Sandy

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form