Defendants Must Be Aware of The Dangerous Condition or They Most Likely Will Not Be Held Liable for A Slip and Fall Injury

Donatucci v. Altanticare Health Services

Docket No.: A-1894-19

Decided March 17, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint when he slipped and fell on a broken piece of sidewalk outside the facility and an employee had mentioned that there had been complaints about the sidewalk before.

In Donatucci, On March 1, 2017, plaintiff’s daughter, Miranda Donatucci, drove him to the AtlantiCare HealthPlex (the HealthPlex) to pick up medication. They parked in the facility’s parking lot located in front of the building. While plaintiff went inside, his daughter stayed in the car. After exiting the building, plaintiff tripped while walking back to the vehicle. Plaintiff suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, disc bulging at multiple levels in the thoracic spine, disc herniations in the cervical spine, and lumbar radiculopathies.

While on the ground, plaintiff noticed his foot was next to a broken seam between two sections of the sidewalk, which caused a lip in the cement. Miranda took photos of the broken cement later that day. Plaintiff returned about two months later to take additional photos, at which point the pavement in the area had been replaced.

Plaintiff and his daughter testified that shortly after the fall, a female AtlantiCare employee came outside to help. Neither remembered her name or position, but both testified the employee told them that this was not the first time a visitor had fallen on the facility’s uneven sidewalk. Plaintiff further testified the employee told him defendants had received similar complaints of visitors falling in the same location since trees next to the sidewalk were removed, causing the pavement to become uneven.

There was testimony that the security guard went to investigate and could not locate a hazard. There was also testimony from other members of defendant’s facility that claimed there was no issue before.

The defendant moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion, dismissing plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the dismissal, ruling that the evidence presented of the sidewalk and the employees statement of past complaints was enough facts to have a jury decide whether the defendant was negligent in the maintenance of the sidewalk that led to plaintiff’s injury.

This case is important for all personal injury plaintiffs.  Defendants have to have notice of a dangerous condition of the property. If defendants are not aware of the condition or the fact that it could be dangerous, they most likely will not be held liable for an injury caused by the condition.  Here, the jury will decide whether defendant’s knew or should have known about the dangerous sidewalk and make efforts to fix it before plaintiff’s slip and fall.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a slip and fall, motor vehicle accident, truck crash, wrongful death, or other premises related injury, you need to make sure you contact a personal injury attorney with experience today.  Failing to consider these issues could result in your case be dismissed permanently.  Do not hesitate to contact Hark & Hark today to discuss your personal injury.

For personal injury matters, you pay nothing upfront, and our fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.


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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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