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Majestic Realty Assocs., Inc. v. Toti Contracting Co. - 30 N.J. 425, 153 A.2d 321 (1959)

Rule:

Liability will be imposed upon the landowner in spite of the engagement of an independent contractor if the work to be done constitutes a nuisance per se.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Majestic Realty Associates, Inc., and Bohen's, Inc., owner and tenant, sought compensation from defendants Toti Contracting Co., Inc. and Parking Authority of the City of Paterson, New Jersey, for damage to Majestic's building and to Bohen's goods. The claim arose out of the activity of Toti in demolishing certain structures owned by the Authority. In the trial court, the action against the Authority was dismissed at the close of the plaintiffs' proof on the ground that Toti was an independent contractor for whose negligence the Authority could not be held responsible. The issue of the contractor's liability was submitted to the jury, which returned substantial verdicts for both plaintiffs. Majestic and Bohen's appealed from the dismissal in favor of the Authority. Toti did not seek a review. The Appellate Division reversed and ordered a new trial. 

Issue:

Is defendant Parking Authority liable for damages caused by the negligent actions of defendant Toti?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The supreme court affirmed the appellate division's decision. The supervisory interest of the authority related to the result accomplished, not to the means by which it was accomplished. The demolition work was inherently dangerous, thus subjecting the authority to a nondelegable duty to ensure that care was taken in the demolition process, and the question of liability regarding that duty was one for the jury to make.

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