On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-3977-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted July 24, 2012 Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.
Plaintiffs Maria Quartello (Maria) and her husband Mark Quartello (Mark) appeal from orders entered by the Law Division on August 19, 2011, granting summary judgment in favor of defendants J.M. Englewood Marina, L.L.C. (J.M. Marina), Monte's Marine Service, I, L.L.C. (Monte's Marine), Peter Monte, Sr. (Peter, Sr.), and Peter Monte, Jr. (Peter, Jr.). We affirm.
This matter arises from the following facts. Sometime in 2005, Mark purchased a twenty-seven-foot vessel from its prior owner. At the end of the 2005 boating season, the boat was winterized and stored at the J.M. Marina, which is located in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Monte's Marine provides services to vessels at J.M. Marina. Peter, Jr. owned and operated Monte's Marine, and Peter, Sr. was the manager of the gas dock operation. On August 12, 2007, Mark brought the vessel to J.M. Marina for fueling. Maria was on board, along with Mark, Maria's son Brad Zanardelli (Zanardelli), and his girlfriend.
The dock attendant handed Mark the fuel hose and nozzle, and he began to fill the vessel with fuel. When he was finished, Mark returned the hose and nozzle to the attendant. Mark paid the attendant, and turned the key to start the engine. He heard an explosion. The vessel's engine hatch had blown open, and Maria was thrown into the water by the force of the explosion. Maria was helped out of the water. Maria and Mark were waiting for emergency assistance in the marina's office when there was another explosion on the vessel.
Detective Alexander Perry (Detective Perry) of the New Jersey State Police investigated the explosion and issued a report, which concluded that:
The origin was determined to be on the starboard side in the gunnel[*fn1 ] area where the fuel tube was enclosed. After the vessel was fueled the blower was turned off allowing gas vapors to build up in the gunnel and cabin area. All windows and hatches were closed, not allowing the gas vapors to vent. The vessel blower should remain on before, during, and after fueling. All hatches and windows should be open. By the blower being off, the gas vapors were contained inside the vessel. The engine was then started, which ignited the vapors, and caused the explosion. The pressure from the explosion blew both hatches open in the stern and the bow.
Detective Perry said that the "gas vapors were accidentally ignited when the engine was started."
On August 4, 2009, plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Law Division. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants failed to properly maintain, inspect and/or repair the vessel and were otherwise negligent in the performance of their respective duties regarding the vessel. They claimed that defendants' negligence was a proximate cause of the explosion and the personal injuries and property damage they sustained.
At his deposition, Mark testified that in 2006, Peter, Sr. informed him that it was taking an inordinate amount of time to refuel the vessel. Peter, Sr. reportedly said there might be something wrong with the fuel vent or it might be clogged with seaweed or a twig. Mark conceded that he did not ask Monte's Marine to repair the vent at the time. However, he said that in late summer of 2006, he asked Peter, Jr. to check on the vent. At the end of the boating season in October 2006, the vessel was taken out of the water.
In the spring of 2007, Monte's Marine performed certain work on the vessel in anticipation of its return to the water. Mark claimed that his secretary faxed Monte's Marine a list of repairs for the vessel, dated May 10, 2007, which mentioned the slow refueling and possible clogged vent line. Monte's Marine claimed that it never received the fax.
Moreover, the list of repairs dated May 26, 2007, that Monte's Marine performed on the vessel does not mention any repairs to the vent line. Mark testified that he raised the matter with Peter, Sr., who reportedly told him he had received the May ...