On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-4078-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 7, 2008
Before Judges A.A. Rodríguez and C.S. Fisher.
Plaintiff filed this action against the defendant-landowner, claiming she sustained personal injuries when falling in defendant's parking lot as a result of slipping on pebbles. Finding that plaintiff was aware of this condition based on her prior encounter with a similar condition in another area of the parking lot, the trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant and dismissed the complaint. We reverse.
The circumstances may be simply stated. As described by plaintiff, on May 10, 2003, she drove to the Crofton Commons Condominium Complex to visit a friend. At approximately 7:00 p.m., plaintiff parked her car in a paved lot near her friend's unit, exited her vehicle and walked around the front of her car toward the sidewalk. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that "I just looked under my feet like you typically do to find out where I should step down [from her vehicle] and where I should be going and I saw the little pebbles." These pebbles, she testified, were scattered and present not only in the parking lot but also in the area of the sidewalk that she traversed on her way to her friend's condominium.
At approximately 10:00 p.m., plaintiff left her friend's condominium and walked to her car. Naturally, it was darker than it had been. Plaintiff could not say at her deposition whether or to what extent the area was illuminated.
A few hours earlier, plaintiff had approached her friend's door by walking around the front of her car and up a sidewalk. When she departed, plaintiff walked directly toward the passenger side of her car, across an area that had been covered by a parked car when plaintiff arrived. Plaintiff testified through an interpreter about her observations and actions --immediately before she slipped and fell -- as she approached the passenger side of her vehicle:
Q: Do you remember whether you even looked at the ground as you were walking from the sidewalk over towards your car?
A: I remember I walked very carefully because I remember the stones here.
Q: Were you looking at the ground?
A: No, I did not look at the ground.
Q: Well, do you mean you were walking very carefully?
A: Because I remember it was pebbles. I walked ...