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Alexandrow v. Yardville National Bank

December 1, 2009

IRENE ALEXANDROW, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
YARDVILLE NATIONAL BANK AND CINTAS CORPORATION (I/P/A CINTAS), DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-7494-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 18, 2009

Before Judges Graves and J.N. Harris.

This is a premises liability action involving a bank branch, a carpeted floor mat, a fall, and ensuing personal injuries. Plaintiff Irene Alexandrow appeals the May 1, 2009 orders of the Law Division granting summary judgment, thereby dismissing her complaint against defendants Yardville National Bank (Yardville) and Cintas Corporation (Cintas). Finding no errors in the dual determinations of Judge Vincent Le Blon, we affirm.

The underlying facts are neither complicated nor materially disputed. Because plaintiff's appeal raises the specter of error committed during summary judgment motion practice - Rule 4:46 - we recite the facts giving all favorable inferences to plaintiff. Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Nowell Amoroso, P.A., 189 N.J. 436, 445-46 (2007) (summary judgment standards apply on appeal in the same way that they apply in the trial court); Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995) (requiring that we must "consider whether the competent evidential materials presented, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, are sufficient to permit a rational factfinder to resolve the alleged disputed issue in favor of the non-moving party[]").

Yardville operated a branch bank office at 145 West Main Street in Somerville. It provided both a front and a rear entrance to accommodate foot traffic into the facility. The rear entrance door opened into a vestibule in which was placed a carpeted floor mat that was not secured to the underlying surface. Only friction and gravity held the floor mat in place. Cintas and Yardville had a contractual relationship, memorialized by a written Facility Services Rental Service Agreement, whereby Cintas supplied carpeted floor mats to Yardville on a weekly basis for the Somerville location. Cintas delivered and placed a carpeted floor mat in Yardville's rear entrance vestibule without the guidance or assistance of Yardville's employees. An invoice, dated July 2, 2007, indicated that Cintas supplied a four-foot by six-foot carpeted floor mat to Yardville. The precise date that it was placed in the vestibule is unknown.

One of Yardville's employees testified in a deposition that occasionally the carpeted floor mat in the vestibule would not remain in the middle where it was placed. It was sometimes moved, and could get caught in the door and then be straightened:

Q: And earlier I believe you said you had occasion to observe sometimes the door - the carpet would get stuck in the door? Did you ever observe that?

A: Yes. If it moved, I would have to pull it back, yes.

Q: Okay. And you said your belief is sometimes the door would catch the carpet?

A: If the mat had moved. But usually they were placed in the middle.

Q: Okay.

A: Okay? It would have to be somebody pulled it or did something or maybe brought something in the bank, you know, like maybe Brink's or something, I don't know, and then we'd have to straighten it. It didn't happen often.

Prior to her fall, plaintiff had been a customer of the Yardville's Somerville branch. Until July 2, 2007, she had never before entered the location using the rear entrance door.

However, on that date, she entered the branch through the rear, began to navigate the vestibule, and fell down, suffering personal injuries.

Besides plaintiff, there were no eyewitnesses to the event. Yardville's video security cameras did not capture the fall. In her deposition, submitted to the motion judge, plaintiff described the incident as the following:

Q: Could you describe to me what steps you took from the car to the - to the bank?

A: How many steps?

Q: No. When you walked out of the car, did you walk straight to the bank? did you go anywhere else first?

A: No. I - there's like a little vestibule there, and I walked in there, and I fell.

Q: All right. Do you know why you fell? You're shaking your head no. You have ...


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