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Vanchieri v. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority

Decided: April 26, 1985.

JEAN VANCHIERI AND MICHAEL VANCHIERI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY, WACKENHUT COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND JOHN DOE AND JANE DOE, FICTITIOUS NAMES, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.

King, Deighan and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by Deighan, J.A.D.

Deighan

[201 NJSuper Page 36] Plaintiffs appeal from a summary judgment dismissing their complaint based on the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1, et seq., for personal injuries sustained by plaintiff Jean

Vanchieri. She was knocked down by horseplay of young rowdies at the Giant Stadium while leaving a football game. In dismissing the complaint, the trial judge concluded that Rodriguez v. N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority, 193 N.J. Super. 39 (App.Div.1983), certif. den. 96 N.J. 291 (1984) was dispositive of this matter. On appeal plaintiffs request that we reexamine Rodriguez or alternatively argue that it is not applicable to the facts of this case. We disagree and affirm.

On September 4, 1982 plaintiffs and Mr. and Mrs. Sassi attended a pre-season football game between the New York Jets and Denver Broncos at Giant Stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. They remained in their seats after the game until the crowd thinned out and then proceeded to the main floor. Mrs. Vanchieri and Mrs. Sassi decided to go to the ladies room but changed their minds and walked back to meet their husbands. Mr. Vanchieri, who was talking with Mr. Sassi and waiting for their wives, heard a commotion, looked toward the crowd and saw "three kids" who seemed to be playing "touch football." One of the boys pushed the other into the two women; Mrs. Vanchieri went down, Mrs. Sassi fell on top of her and the boy fell on top of Mrs. Sassi. The boys were never identified.

Mr. Vanchieri ran to help his wife while Mr. Sassi went to seek medical or first aid assistance from stadium personnel. About 15 minutes later, personnel from the stadium arrived with a wheelchair. Mrs. Vanchieri was taken for emergency treatment to a room at the stadium and was later transported to the emergency room of Riverside General Hospital. X-rays revealed that she sustained a fracture of the left femur. Eventually, she required surgery for a prosthetic replacement of her left hip.

Subsequently, plaintiffs instituted the present action. In their complaint, plaintiffs alleges that (1) both the Authority as owner and Wackenhut Company (Wackenhut), a private security agency, were responsible for security at the stadium and

were negligent in performing their duty; (2) the Authority was negligent in failing to hire proper security and to provide a safe place for plaintiffs; (3) the Authority was negligent in failing to provide emergency medical treatment; (4) Wackenhut was negligent in failing to provide for security and supervision, and (5) John and Jane Doe and the Authority were negligent in causing plaintiff's injuries. In the sixth count Mr. Vanchieri sues per quod.

The basic issue presented to us is whether a municipal entity within the definition of the Tort Claims Act and a private security agency hired by the municipal agency may be liable for failure to provide adequate crowd control and police security at a public sporting event.

As outlined by plaintiffs,

[t]he basis of Plaintiffs' case is as follows:

1. A dangerous condition existed at Giant Stadium on the date of the injury to Plaintiff Jean Vanchieri.

2. Defendants had either actual and/or constructive notice of said condition.

3. Defendants failed to warn Plaintiffs of said condition.

4. Defendants failed to provide proper supervision at the Stadium before, during, and after the event attended by plaintiffs.

5. There are sufficient questions of fact to warrant jury trial of the issues.

6. Rodriguez v. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, supra, is incorrect on the law, and inapplicable to ...


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