This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to R.R. 4:58, claiming that this case, in its present posture, presents no litigable issue as to any material fact and that therefore judgment should be entered as a matter of law.
Plaintiff was a patient at the Theresa Grotta Center, a convalescent home. While walking from one room to another, she allegedly fell in a puddle of urine left on the floor of the home by another patient of advanced years troubled with an incontinent kidney condition. Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the fall. This action is brought against the Theresa Grotta Center for its alleged negligence in failing to clean the puddle from the floor, thereby allowing a dangerous condition to exist whereby plaintiff was injured.
Defendant answers by, inter alia , denying these acts of negligence, and moves for summary judgment on the ground that it is a charitable organization and as such enjoys immunity from liability under the law of this State.
Defendant relies primarily on the affidavit of Mrs. Margaret Maskray, executive director of defendant Theresa Grotta Center, which discloses that the Center is a nonprofit convalescent nursing home, having three registered and three practical nurses, a medical officer on call 24 hours a day, and a psychiatrist in its employ. There is also provision made whereby a patient's own doctor may visit during the stay at this home.
The Center is supported financially from funds made available from the Jewish Community Council of Essex County, patients' fees, the Theresa Grotta Center Service League since 1962, Blue Cross payment for those patients who come from Beth Israel Hospital, Essex County Welfare, and contributions
that come in the name of the Center. Plaintiff's bill was paid in part by the Jewish Community Council.
Article III of the certificate of incorporation of the Theresa Grotta Center, and article II, section 1 of its bylaws, contain the following "purpose and objects" clause:
"The purpose for which the corporation is formed is to provide a nonprofit, specialized, short-term facility, which through medical and nursing care, rehabilitative technique, physical restoration and social case work services, will enable patients to recover from acute illnesses or accident, to normal living, and thereby to perpetuate the name of Theresa Grotta who inspired the founding and development of the corporation."
Defendant applies for summary judgment on the theory that under the provisions of N.J.S. 2A:53A-7 it is immune from liability to this plaintiff who, on the date of the alleged accident (February 18, 1961), was admittedly a beneficiary of its services.
The pertinent provisions of the afore-mentioned statute under which immunity is sought are as follows:
"No nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes shall, except as is hereinafter set forth, be liable to respond in damages to any person who shall suffer damage from the negligence of any agent or servant of such corporation, society or association, where such person is a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of the works of such nonprofit corporation, society or association; provided, however, that such immunity from liability shall not extend to any person who shall suffer damage from the negligence of such corporation, society, or association or of its agents or servants where such person is one unconcerned in and unrelated to and ...