New Jersey Appellate Division Affirms Summary Judgment for Defendant in Premises Liability Action Finding That No Dangerous Conditions Existed That Caused Plaintiff’s Accident and That Plaintiff Was Aware of the Conditions and Possible Risks of the Property

In Platvoet v. Mancini, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, considered a premises liability case arising from the plaintiff’s fall into her mother’s pool while pulling a tarp over the water. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and subsequently denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the judgment. Plaintiff appealed and argued that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding the presence of a dangerous condition on the property that precluded the entry of summary judgment. Her argument was based on competing expert engineering reports produced by plaintiff and defendant about whether a dangerous condition existed, whether defendant should have warned plaintiff about any danger, and the cause of the accident.

Plaintiff argued that a dangerous condition existed because defendant failed to maintain the decking around the pool and also failed to install a fence surrounding the pool. Defendant argued that plaintiff caused her own fall and that a fence, guardrails or warnings were not necessary. Defendant further argued that a fence surrounding the pool is designed to keep unsupervised children away from the pool, that a guardrail around the deck would not have prevented the accident because the fall occurred in a different area of the pool, and that plaintiff had been to the pool may times and knew about the its conditions.

The Appellate Division found that plaintiff was a social guest and as such, must accept the premises as she finds them unless the host knows or has reason to know of some condition that could pose an unreasonable risk of harm or the guest knows of the condition and the risk involved. The court agreed with defendant that there was no evidence that the alleged dangerous conditions on the premises caused the accident. In addition, the court held that plaintiff was thoroughly familiar with the pool and surrounding area because she had been there almost every day for three preceding summers, so there was no need for any warnings. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for the defendant.

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