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ELLIOTT v. DELSEA ARENA

June 13, 2005.

DAVID ELLIOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
DELSEA ARENA, INC. d/b/a FRANKLIN SKATING CENTER, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY BROTMAN, Senior District Judge

OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  This negligence suit arises from an injury sustained while plaintiff was roller skating at defendant's premises. On October 27, 2002 Plaintiff David Elliott ("Elliott") entered the Franklin Skating Center and rented roller skates from Defendant Delsea Arena, Inc. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff was asked to sign a "Waiver and Release to Roller Skate" (hereafter "the Release") before being allowed to skate. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at ¶ 5, Pl.'s Compl. at ¶¶ 2,3). Elliott signed the Release without reading it. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at ¶ 5). Around 10:15 p.m. an accident occurred. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 6.) Elliott had been "using the rented roller skates, when suddenly and without warning, the wheels on the roller skates locked up/jammed causing Plaintiff to fall to the ground with great force . . ." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he sustained an ankle fracture requiring surgery and that he suffered "great pain and agony". (Pl.'s Compl at ¶ 8.)

  Plaintiff's Complaint includes several theories of recovery. Specifically, Elliott complains that Defendant: a) failed to "properly maintain" the roller skates, b) failed to "properly inspect the skates", c) failed to "warn Plaintiff . . . of the dangerous condition of the roller skates . . .", d) failed to "properly service and repair the roller skates", e) failed to "insure that the roller skates rented to Plaintiff operated in a safe and proper manner", f) failed "to provide adequate safeguards to prevent injury", g) "disregarded the safety and rights of the Plaintiff" and others, and h) failed "to recognize and follow the applicable standard . . . regarding inspection, maintenance, service and repair of rental skates."

  In its Motion for Summary Judgment, defendant Delsea challenges the complaint on two grounds. First, Delsea argues that the Waiver plaintiff signed released defendant from all claims for negligence. Second, defendant Delsea asks this court to grant it partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's wage loss claims.*fn1

  II. THE LEGAL STANDARD

  Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence contained in the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Serbin v. Bora Corp., 96 F.3d 66, 69 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1996) and Fed.R.C.P. 56. The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Judicial consideration of summary judgment motions requires that all reasonable inferences from facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990).

  Once the moving party has met its burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Several Supreme Court cases have held that a summary judgment motion should be granted unless the party opposing the motion "provides evidence `such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party.'" See, e.g., Lawrence v. National Westminster Bank New Jersey, 98 F.3d 61, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). In other words, the non-moving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Serbin, 96 F.3d at 69 n. 2 (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). If the evidence presented by the non-movant is sufficient to form the basis of a jury finding in favor of the non-moving party, summary judgment is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the non-movant's evidence on any essential element of the claims asserted is merely "colorable" or is "not significantly probative," the court must enter summary judgment in favor of the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; see also Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991) (observing that non-movant's effort to defeat summary judgment may not "rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements").

  III. DISCUSSION

  A. The Parties' Arguments in Detail

  Defendant Delsea asks this court to hold that "all claims for negligence against defendant are barred by the Waiver and Release to Roller Skate that plaintiff signed before skating at defendant's premises." (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Summ. J. at p. 9.) After that simple and clear statement of purpose Defendant then devotes fourteen pages of its brief to analyzing why the Release is a valid and enforceable contract under New Jersey law.

  Plaintiff opposes defendant's Summary Judgment motion on two distinct grounds. First, Elliott argues that the Release is invalid and unenforceable because it contravenes public policy. In particular, plaintiff believes the Release violates the policy behind N.J.S.A. 5:14-4(k), which charges renters of roller skates, "to the extent practicable to check rental skates on a regular basis to insure the skates are in good mechanical condition." Plaintiff's second argument relates closely to his first argument.*fn2 In short, plaintiff's second argument is that the Release has "nothing . . . to do with the Defendant's duty to maintain their [sic] rental equipment." (Pl.'s Opp. Br. at 8.) Elliott urges the Court to find that "there is a material question of fact as to whether Defendant's maintenance of rental skates would even be covered under the Waiver and Release". (Pl.'s Br. In Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at 13.)

  Defendant's reply brief counters that plaintiff cannot prove that the roller skate was defective. Defendant concludes that since plaintiff cannot prove that the roller skate was defective, that the "faulty-maintenance claim cannot succeed".*fn3 (Def.'s Rep. Br. at 7.) ...


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