If A Defendant Creates the Hazard That Caused Your Injury, They Will Usually Be Liable for Damages
Docket No.: A-2125-19
Decided March 18, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court on the issue of whether a wet bathroom floor causing a slip and fall and injury to the plaintiff was the fault of the business.
In Seeley, On October 19, 2011, plaintiff – an attorney – attended a deposition in Atlantic City at Bally’s Casino, owned by defendant. During a break, plaintiff and his co-counsel, Theodore Baker, went to a public men’s restroom. After Mr. Baker entered and went into a stall, plaintiff walked across the floor and slipped and fell on his back. Plaintiff sustained serious back injuries and later underwent multiple-level lumbar fusion surgery.
Neither plaintiff nor Mr. Baker noticed moisture on the floor before the fall. Upon hearing plaintiff fall, Mr. Baker exited the stall and offered assistance to plaintiff; at that point, he also made several observations. He first observed a pattern of moisture covering a “fairly wide area” of plaintiff’s back. He then investigated the floor, which felt wet and slippery, and observed “the amount of moisture that would be left if you took a wet towel and rubbed it on the floor, or a mop, or a sponge or something.” It appeared to him that the amount of moisture was “consistent . . . as if someone had cleaned [the floor], as if someone had come in and wiped it down.” Moreover, the pattern of moisture on the floor was consistent with the pattern on plaintiff’s back. Plaintiff and Mr. Baker both assumed the moisture on the floor was water because it was odorless.
After hearing oral argument and reviewing the deposition testimony of plaintiff and Mr. Baker, the motion judge issued an oral decision. The judge found there was moisture on the floor, but concluded that Mr. Baker’s testimony regarding its source was “speculative at best” and that “the circumstantial inference that [the moisture on the floor was created by defendants was not] appropriate under these circumstances [of a public bathroom].” Accordingly, the judge found plaintiff raised no genuine issues of material fact and granted defendants’ motion.
Plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that the plaintiff and Mr. Baker’s observations that the water appeared to be that as if the floor was just cleaned, was enough to create a genuine issue of material fact that the defendant’s employees were responsible for creating the hazard, causing the fall.
This case is important for all personal injury plaintiffs. If a defendant creates the hazard that caused your slip and fall and resulting injury, they will usually be liable for your damages. In order for your case to proceed to a jury, you must show that the defendant is indeed liable, or that a genuine issue of material fact exists that the jury must resolve. Failure to do either will result in your personal injury being dismissed and the injured plaintiff receiving nothing.
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.
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