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Calhanas v. South Amboy Roller Rink

July 24, 1996

MANUEL CALHANAS AND DINA CALHANAS, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
SOUTH AMBOY ROLLER RINK, D/B/A ROLLER MAGIC, JOHN DOE (A FICTITIOUS NAME), PETER POE, (A FICTITIOUS NAME), AND ABC CORP. (A FICTITIOUS NAME), DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



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

Approved for Publication July 24, 1996/.

Before Judges King, Landau and Humphreys.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

King, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King

The opinion of the court was delivered by

KING, P.J.A.D.

This case involves the "New Jersey Roller Skating Rink Safety and Fair Liability Act," N.J.S.A. 5:14-1 to -7; L. 1991, c. 28, effective February 19, 1991. The injured plaintiff Manuel Calhanas, and his wife, Dina Calhanas, who brought a derivative action, appeal from a summary judgment in favor of South Amboy Roller Rink (Roller Magic). Manuel Calhanas claimed that he was seriously injured while skating at defendant's rink on January 19, 1992. We conclude that Roller Magic's motion for summary judgment was improperly granted. We reverse. See Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 142 N.J. 520, 539-40, 666 A.2d 146 (1995). The evidence available to the motion Judge was not so "one-sided" that defendant was entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Id. at 540.

I.

Plaintiff, Manuel Calhanas, age 37 and a Kearny resident, had roller-skated at defendant Roller Magic's rink in South Amboy about 20 times over the past decade. On the afternoon of January 19, 1992 Calhanas and his family arrived at Roller Magic's rink at 2 p.m.

Plaintiff was injured at 4:30 p.m. during a "couples' skate." He was skating with his young daughter at the time. Plaintiff testified on deposition "there was a small kid going, crossing the rink, going a little wild, skating by himself." Plaintiff said that "as I was riding with my daughter, the kid comes from the left side, cutting across towards the center of the rink and hit me on my left-hand side. I lost my balance and fell and that's when I broke my leg ... in two places." Plaintiff testified that before the accident the rink had announced the slower-paced couples' session and he invited his daughter to skate with him. As plaintiff skated two or three times around the rink during this couples' session, he observed the young skater: "He was just going by himself, crossing, you know, in front of people." Dina Calhanas first noticed the child skating erratically during the prior "all skate" session. Manuel Calhanas also observed the child skating improperly during the prior all-skate session "he was going fast and he kept crossing in front of people" "I mean he keep, you know, zig zagging, riding in front of people..." "he was going too fast for what he was supposed to go" "he was going faster than anybody else."

According to Roller Magic's representative, there were ten floor guards on duty at the time of the accident four or five actually skating on the rink. No floor guards' testimony or affidavits were offered in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Roller Magic's accident report, abstracted from the rink manager's handwritten notes, recorded plaintiff's account "child cut in front of him and he fell forward." The child was never identified. Plaintiff suffered a severe fracture of the left tibia and fibula.

Plaintiff filed suit on August 18, 1993, claiming his injuries were caused by Roller Magic's negligence in failing to provide adequate rink supervision and to enforce its own safety rules. Posted rink rules caution customers: NO FAST SKATING ; NO CUTTING ACROSS FLOOR ; NO WEAVING IN AND OUT, and NO SKATING AGAINST THE CROWD. Plaintiff asserted that the floor guard's duty is to enforce these and other rules. Under defendant's rules, a floor guard had the authority to discipline a skater by ordering the skater to sit in the ten-minute "TIME OUT AREA" or to exclude the skater from the rink.

On October 27, 1995 Roller Magic moved for summary judgment, relying on the Skating Rink Safety and Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 5:14-1 to -7 (Act). The deposition testimony of the plaintiffs was the only factual account of the events leading up to the collision. Roller Magic offered no factual version of the events but urged that its records implied adequate rink supervision at the time. ...


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