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O'Connell v. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority

February 14, 2001

WALTER J. O'CONNELL, JR.,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
V.
NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION
AUTHORITY AND NEW YORK GIANTS,
DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS,
AND
THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE,
DEFENDANTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, L-11144-96.

Before Judges Conley, Wecker and Lesemann.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conley, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued January 23, 2001

During a New York Giants' (Giants) football game, plaintiff alleges in this personal injury litigation that he slipped and fell in the Giants Stadium stands because of snow and ice that had not properly been removed from the stadium stands' interior steps. His action against the National Football League was dismissed by consent. In two separate summary judgment orders, the complaints against the Giants and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) were dismissed. Plaintiff appeals the summary judgments; we reverse as to the Giants but affirm as to NJSEA.

Using his season ticket purchased from the Giants, plaintiff attended a football game at Giants Stadium on December 23, 1995. Several days before the game it had snowed. According to plaintiff's certification, accepted for the purposes of the motions,

When I arrived at the stadium, it appeared as though the aisles had, at some point, been cleared of some snow, however, accumulations of snow remained in the aisles. It appeared as well that in some areas snow had melted, and refroze, resulting in accumulations of ice in the aisles as well. In addition, snow was packed under the seats in the stands.

At approximately 2:45 p.m., during the 3rd quarter of the game, I got up to go to the bathroom, and while walking up the stairs, a fight broke out in the nearby seats. The aisles were covered with snow and ice. While I was walking up the stairs, a fight broke out in the seats. As I waited to pass, the fight spilled out into the aisle. I was pushed, slipped on the snow and ice on the steps, and was knocked down. Upon righting myself, I was again pushed by the crowd, slipped on the snow and ice, fell into the seating area, striking the seats and I fell to the ground.

It is undisputed that Giants Stadium is owned by NJSEA. The governing lease between NJSEA and the Giants identifies NJSEA as the "Lessor" and the Giants as the "Lessee." The lease specifies that the Giants leased from NJSEA "the premises described in Annex A hereof, except for portions of areas thereof which are reserved by Lessor for its exclusive use as set forth in Article VIII hereof." Annex A is not included in the appellate record. However, and at least for the purposes of the motions for summary judgment, we assume the stadium seats and steps are part of the premises leased by the Giants and are not included in the areas "reserved by [NJSEA] for its exclusive use . . . ."

As to the agreement between NJSEA and the Giants concerning their respective maintenance obligations under the lease, Article XI of the lease provides in pertinent part:

Section 11.1. Lessor, at its own cost and expense, will keep the demised premises in good order and repair and will make all reasonable replacements thereto necessary to keep the same in good condition for the intended use thereof by Lessee, and will provide the personnel necessary to supervise and operate the Football Stadium. Without intending hereby to limit the generality of the foregoing, Lessor will, at its own cost and expense:

(c) have seats clean and in working order at least three hours before the start of each football game held by Lessee at the Football Stadium;

(f) at least three hours prior to the start of each football game held by Lessee at the Football Stadium, have removed all refuse and garbage from the Football Stadium, stands and pedestrian areas;

(h) with respect to the areas of the Football Stadium occupied exclusively by Lessee, clean daily and remove refuse and garbage daily, as needed paint and furnish air-conditioning, electric power, hot ...


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