On appeal from the New Jersey Supreme Court.
For the plaintiff-respondent, Oscar LeWine.
For the defendant-appellant, Cole & Cole.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
FREUND, J. The appellant appeals from a judgment recovered by the respondent in the Atlantic Circuit for personal injuries.
The complaint alleges that the respondent was visiting friends who were guests at the hotel owned and operated by the appellant. During the visit the respondent had occasion to use the bathroom connecting with the bedroom occupied by the respondent's friends. The complaint further alleges that the "defendant negligently kept and maintained at the
entrance of the said bathroom a sudden and abrupt step leading therefrom * * * without signal, warning or indication of any kind to the users of the said bathroom of the existence thereof; all of which constituted a structurally defective and dangerous condition" and that the plaintiff "while in the act of emerging from the said bathroom * * * was caused to fall and be thrown to and upon the floor with great force and violence." The appellant entered a general denial and by separate defenses denied the "sudden and abrupt step," and alleged that the maintenance thereof did not constitute a structural defect or a dangerous condition and that the respondent was guilty of contributory negligence.
The testimony reveals that the accident happened in the early afternoon and that the floor of the bathroom was five and a half inches higher than the floor of the adjoining bedroom. The tread of the bathroom step was a slab of white marble and, when the bathroom door was closed, the tread of the step extended into the bedroom for about three inches. The floor of the bathroom was of white tile and the bedroom floor was covered with carpet up to the riser of the bathroom step. The bathroom was lighted by an overhead light controlled by a switch just inside of the bathroom door and the bedroom was lighted with a large globe containing two light bulbs, all of which were in working order. There were two windows in the bedroom, and the respondent's host testified that, at the time the respondent sustained her injuries, the sunlight was coming through the windows. The respondent testified that the light in the bathroom was lighted when she entered the bathroom and before leaving she put out the light "and then I proceeded to pull the door and over I went."
The respondent's version of the accident is best illustrated by her testimony, viz.:
"The Court: Would you mind telling us what happened to you, as you recall it, when you came out of the bathroom?
"The witness: Well, when I was ready to come out of the bathroom as usual, I always turned the light out after I have used the room, and so I turned the light out. The handle of the door was here ...