O’Keefe v. Marcovici: Premises Liability in Slip-And-Fall Personal Injury
Docket No. A-0010-21
Decided December 13, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiffs’ appeal from an order granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing their complaint with prejudice. Plaintiffs also appealed the trial court’s order denying their motion for reconsideration.
Plaintiff alleged that when she was walking on the sidewalk outside of defendant’s home, she caught her foot on an elevated section of the sidewalk and fell. As a result, she suffered a fractured hand when attempting to break her fall, two broken teeth, and abrasions to her face and knee. After bringing her husband to the scene where she fell later that day, plaintiff estimated that a corner of the sidewalk panel was raised about an inch from the adjoining panel. However, she did not take any measurements but did take pictures that were eventually admitted into evidence. Plaintiff argued that because portions of the sidewalk were lighter in color than the rest of the sidewalk, defendant must have attempted to repair the sidewalk. Plaintiff presented no evidence to back up this claim.
Eventually, plaintiff filed a personal injury complaint against defendant and several municipal entities. Plaintiff’s husband asserted a derivative per quod claim as plaintiff’s spouse and sought compensation for loss of consortium. Following the conclusion of discovery, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. The court found that defendant was not civilly liable to plaintiffs based on New Jersey’s long-settled principles of common law immunity for sidewalk liability for residential property owners. The trial judge also found that plaintiffs presented no competent evidence that defendant negligently constructed or repaired the sidewalk prior to the date Katherine fell. The trial judge noted that plaintiffs took no measurements of the alleged raised portion of the sidewalk panel, and presented no expert testimony as to whether a raised sidewalk panel presented a dangerous condition. The plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration was also denied. Plaintiffs subsequently appealed.
On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the trial court erred because the court failed to view the evidence in the light most favorable to them; held that the municipal ordinance did not create a standard of care; ruled that plaintiffs could only establish liability by providing an expert report and opinion; and denied their motion for reconsideration. The Appellate Court determined that the trial judge properly granted summary judgment to defendant, and correctly denied plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration. The court noted that plaintiffs did not describe the alleged repair in any detail and submitted no evidence that even assuming there was a repair, defendant was responsible for making it, exactly where it was made on the panel, or when it was made. The court further stated that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that defendant violated the municipal ordinance and, even if they had, this violation could not provide the basis for liability in this sidewalk slip-and-fall case. The court also denied plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration because they merely repeated the same arguments they unsuccessfully presented in opposition to defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Thus, the trial court did not abuse their discretion by denying their motion.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed matter pertaining to premises liability in slip-and-fall personal injury cases. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the plaintiffs in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.