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Dover Davis v. the Newark Ymwca

October 10, 2012

DOVER DAVIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE NEWARK YMWCA, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-6090-10.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 25, 2012

Before Judges Yannotti and Harris.

Plaintiff Dover Davis appeals from (1) the summary judgment dismissal of his complaint against defendant Young Men's and Women's Christian Association of Newark and Vicinity (the YMWCA) and (2) the denial of his motion for reconsideration. The Law Division found Davis's claims were barred under New Jersey's Charitable Immunity Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7 to -11. We affirm.

I.

In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we apply the same standard under Rule 4:46-2(c) that governs the motion court. See Gray v. Caldwell Wood Prods., Inc., 425 N.J. Super. 496, 499 (App. Div. 2012). 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." Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).

Viewed most favorably to Davis, the summary judgment record established the following facts. The YMWCA is a nonprofit corporation that provides physical fitness and housing services at its facility located at 600 Broad Street, Newark.*fn1 Pursuant to an occupancy agreement between the parties, Davis paid $145 per week to occupy Room 517 at the facility. On August 7, 2009, Davis was bitten on his "lower back region" by a rodent in Room 517, which required medical attention and treatment at University Hospital resulting in a medical bill for approximately $2000.

Davis filed a complaint against the YMWCA in July 2010 and an amended complaint in January 2011 seeking remedies for the "negligence of the defendant." After discovery was conducted, the YMWCA filed a motion for summary judgment.*fn2 After oral argument,*fn3 Judge Thomas R. Vena ruled that "the [p]laintiff was seeking services provided by the [d]efendant as part of its charitable nonprofit services fitting squarely within the meaning of the charitable immunity statute." Accordingly, summary judgment dismissing Davis's complaint with prejudice was granted by order dated November 4, 2011.

Davis filed a motion for reconsideration on December 7, 2011. He argued that the grant of summary judgment was improper because, among other things, there were material facts in dispute. He argued most forcefully that because he was not residing in emergency housing in the YMWCA's facility and was paying rent for his room, "saying the plaintiff benefited from the [d]efendant's charitable works is a 'LIE.'" In addition, Davis contended that (1) the YMWCA had "misled the Court," (2) his "motions were mishandled and removed [and] [his] file was sabotaged," and (3) the "case was manipulated."

On January 20, 2012, Judge Vena denied reconsideration, writing, "insufficient grounds per R. 4:49-2" on the order. Davis filed his notice of appeal on January 24, 2012.*fn4

II.

The main thrusts of Davis's arguments are that either (1) the Act did not apply to him because he was not "a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of the works of [the YMWCA]," N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7(a), or (2) there were genuine issues of material fact in dispute over his beneficiary status and the nonprofit status of the YMWCA. We are unable to agree with either of Davis's contentions.

We start with whether the summary judgment record demonstrated any genuine issues of material fact in dispute. "The very object of the summary judgment procedure . . . is to separate real issues from issues about which there is no serious dispute." Shelcusky v. Garjulio, 172 N.J. 185, 200-01 (2002). It obliges motion judges "to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Brill, supra, 142 N.J. at 540 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also R. 4:46-2(c). That determination "does not require a court to turn a blind eye to the weight of the evidence; the 'opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, ...


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