Suppose you’re a realtor showing a house to a client and while looking through the house, your client falls on a broken step and sustains serious injuries. Can the client sue you?

Well, you guessed it: it depends. The Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed this question in a case called Hopkins v Fox and Lazo Realtors. The Court stated: “not all brokers are actually familiar with all of the houses that they may show to potential buyers. Some brokers will not have had the opportunity to inspect the house before the open house commences. Thus, a broker’s knowledge of dangerous conditions in a given residence and the broker’s ability to warn visitors of such defects is heavily contingent on whether it is reasonable under the circumstances for the broker to have inspected the premises or otherwise become familiar with the property in preparation for an open-house inspection and whether the broker had an adequate opportunity to do so.”

The takeaway from this case: if a client expects the realtor to inspect the home first, such as where a realtor is hosting an open house, the realtor would likely be liable. However, if a realtor is merely driving around with a client to multiple homes and is not even the listing agent on the homes, there is little expectation that the realtor would have inspected the home. Of course, there are lots of possible scenarios in between these two extremes and as the Court stated: “we envisage a broker’s duty as existing on a continuum that is linked to whether a broker had an opportunity to become familiarized with a residence”.

Moral of the story? Make sure you have good insurance. Second moral? Make sure you get good legal advice.

Nothing in this article is intended as legal advice. This article is merely informational and does not create any attorney client relationship.