New Jersey Appellate Division Affirms Summary Judgment for Defendant in Premises Liability Action Due to Absence of Actual or Constructive Knowledge of Dangerous Condition

In Kurc v. All Star One, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court analyzed a lawsuit arising from an accident at a cheerleading practice. While walking to meet her granddaughter at the end of the practice, the plaintiff stepped on a mat in order to avoid a child sitting on another mat in the walkway. The mat moved as the plaintiff was stepping off it, causing her to fall and injure her wrist.

The plaintiff brought a negligence action against several parties connected with the facility where the accident occurred. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the plaintiff had failed to present any evidence that the defendants were negligent. The motion was granted, and an appeal followed.

The Appellate Division began its analysis by noting that a landowner owes business invitees a duty of care to protect against dangerous conditions on the land that the owner knew about or should have discovered. The Court emphasized that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendants knew or should have known that a child was sitting on the walkway. While the plaintiff contended that the facility’s receptionist should have been aware of the child’s presence because she fell near the reception desk, the Court found that this was insufficient to establish that the receptionist knew or should have known of the child’s presence. The Court also noted that there was no evidence of how long the child was sitting on the walkway prior to the accident, and therefore no evidence of whether the defendants had sufficient time to discover and remedy the situation.

The plaintiff also argued that it was foreseeable that a child would sit on the walkway. The Court noted that there was no evidence supporting this contention, such as evidence that children regularly sat on the walkway in the past. The Court also observed that under New Jersey law, foreseeability alone is insufficient to establish a duty to protect business invitees from a dangerous property condition.

The Court therefore concluded that there was no evidence that the defendants breached a duty to protect the plaintiff from a dangerous condition. In so doing, the Court held that it need not address the plaintiff’s contention that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment on the issue of proximate cause. The Court also declined to consider the plaintiff’s argument that the mat on which she stood was defective, noting that the plaintiff acknowledged that her theory of liability did not concern the mat, but rather the blocked walkway. Finally, the Court stated that it need not consider the plaintiff’s argument that she was not required to present expert testimony, as the absence of expert testimony was not the basis of the trial court’s decision.

The Court therefore granted the trial court’s order entering summary judgment in the defendants’ favor.