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Leonardo v. Victorian

April 8, 2008

FRANCES LEONARDO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COMFORT INN VICTORIAN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Docket No. L-2095-04.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 12, 2008

Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Lyons.

Leaving her Egg Harbor hotel room, plaintiff Frances Leonardo was walking to her car on a path bordered by decorative rock beds. Plaintiff did not see an egg-shaped rock on the path before her, slipped, and fell. Plaintiff sued defendant hotel, Comfort Inn Victorian (Comfort Inn). Following a trial, the jury found that Comfort Inn was not negligent in the maintenance of its property. Plaintiff now appeals that verdict and a subsequent order denying her motion for a new trial.

The facts surrounding this case are straightforward. Plaintiff and her friend, Rose Caratozzola, were staying at Comfort Inn in Egg Harbor. On the morning of September 2, 2002, plaintiff and her friend left their room and were walking toward the parking lot on a cement walkway. One of the stones from the decorative beds of stone that bordered the walkway was on the path. Plaintiff tripped and fell over that egg-shaped stone.

Plaintiff went to the manager's office to report the incident. Robin Shaffer Indyg (Indyg), general manager, was on duty. Plaintiff reported to Indyg that "she had tripped over a rock, fell, and scraped up her knees and her hands and that her neck and back were hurting." Plaintiff refused medical attention. Indyg took plaintiff to the ladies' room, where Indyg "cleaned up" plaintiff. Indyg then asked plaintiff where she fell and Indyg took pictures of the surrounding areas "to show how the rocks are placed in the beds and that there was . . . no debris or anything else around there." Then, plaintiff once more refused medical attention because she was "off to the casino." Indyg then filled out an incident report.

Plaintiff claims that the pain came on later, forcing her to leave the Taj Mahal casino early, after only six hours. In the next "day or two," plaintiff saw her family physician, Dr. Dominic Rabino. Plaintiff was treated by several other doctors and incurred nearly $100,000 in medical bills.*fn1

Plaintiff filed a complaint on July 8, 2004, alleging that Comfort Inn was negligent, causing plaintiff's injuries. At trial, which extended from October 16 to 20, 2006, the jury heard testimony from the owner of Comfort Inn, plaintiff, Rose Caratozzola, plaintiff's son, Indyg, and doctors and safety engineers from both sides. The jury returned its verdict in favor of Comfort Inn on October 20, 2006, finding that Comfort Inn was not negligent. The trial court entered judgment on October 26, 2006.

Plaintiff filed a pro se motion for a new trial on November 8, 2006. The motion for new trial was heard on December 1, 2006. The trial court issued a written decision and order on the same day, denying plaintiff's motion.

On December 27, 2006, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. In her appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I

THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING PLAINTIFF PRO SE'S MOTION ...


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