Fatima Marroquin v. Salvador Espinoza and Jose Ramon Espinoza
Submitted by New Jersey Sip and Fall Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
On Sunday November 29, 2014, plaintiff Marroquin went shopping with her Aunt around 11 a.m. They left from the back of the house to access the driveway. Plaintiff had no difficulty walking to the car in the driveway. Upon return, plaintiff parked in the front of the property where there was a walkway. Plaintiff stated she parked there, “because it was easier for us, to place the luggage back there and also for my mother because she has a bad leg.” Two hours later when plaintiff was leaving, she was halfway down the driveway when she slipped on black ice. Plaintiff fell, striking her chin on the stairs, and putting out both hands, breaking her right wrist. Ultimately, plaintiff needed surgery on her wrist. Plaintiff claims that she still has pain and limited range of motion in her wrist that limits her actives since she is right handed.
Defendant Jose Espinoza was inside of his house when the incident occurred. He testified after snowstorms , he typically shovels and cleans “very well and I put a lot of salt.” Defendant recalled clearing the snow and putting salt down. Plaintiff filed a personal injury complaint against defendants on March 17, 2016, seeking compensation for the injuries. In May 2017, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Following oral argument, on July 7, 2017, the trial court granted summary judgment to defendants and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint. The trial court found plaintiff was a social guest and plaintiff did not show the dangerous condition to the defendants. Without the knowledge of the dangerous condition, the court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
On appeal, plaintiff contends that the court’s order dismissing the case was in error because there were material issues of fact that precluded summary judgment. She argues that defendants knew or had reason to know about the icy condition of the walkway. She argued defendants knew or had a reason to know about the conditions of the walkway. Defendant did not have any reason to know about the icy condition or the risk involved. The Appellate Court states as a social guest, defendants had a duty to warn of any “dangerous conditions of which the owner had actual knowledge and of which the guess is unaware.” The Appellate Court agreed with the trial judge that there was no genuine issue of fact that defendants were aware of the icy condition of the front walkway. Both plaintiff and defendants said that they knew of the ice prior to the fall. Plaintiff had no expert to discuss the meteorological conditions or the nature of the walkway. Plaintiff did not see the ice on the walkway; she and others traveled the walkway in one direction and she fell making a return trip. The Appellate Court affirms the decision of the trial court.