NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 16, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Docket No. L-301-11.
Daniel R. Bevere argued the cause for appellant (Piro, Zinna, Cifelli, Paris & Genitempo, P.C., attorneys; John H. Sanders, II, of counsel; Mr. Bevere, on the briefs).
Timothy P. Beck argued the cause for respondents (DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, P.C., attorneys; Mr. Beck, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, Ashrafi and St. John.
Plaintiff Joseph Lareau appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on October 16, 2012, granting summary judgment in favor of defendants Somerset County Park Commission and Green Knoll Golf Course. We affirm.
On June 9, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint, naming the Commission and Green Knoll as defendants. Plaintiff alleged that on March 1, 2009, while crossing a footbridge on the course, he slipped and fell on a "wet carpet" and suffered injuries to this left knee. Plaintiff claimed that defendants failed to provide a "safe walking path for pedestrians" on the course, and defendants' actions were a direct and proximate cause of his injuries. Defendants filed an answer denying liability and asserting various defenses.
After the completion of discovery, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. They argued that plaintiff was a trespasser on the golf course and, therefore, they did not owe him any duty of care. Defendants also argued that, even if plaintiff were considered to be a licensee, plaintiff's claim failed because they did not breach any duty owed to him. Defendants additionally argued that they were immune from liability under the Landlowner's Liablity Act (LLA), N.J.S.A. 2A:42A-2 to -10
In support of their motion, defendants submitted a certification of John Zujkowski, the course superintendent at Green Knoll. Zujkowski stated that Green Knoll is an eighteen-hole, public golf course operated by the Commission on 156 acres of land in Bridgewater. The course is open only to patrons for golf. All persons using the course are required to pay a green fee.
Zujkowski explained that the course is closed each year from January 1 until the first or second Monday of March. During that time, rounds of golf are not played, and there are no tee markers, ball washers or flags on the course. Golf rangers do not patrol the course. When the course is closed, staff members focus on maintenance and repair of the course and its equipment.
Zujkowski further explained that there is a footbridge on the eighth hole, which crosses a stream in front of the green. He stated that the footbridge is intended to accommodate foot traffic during golf rounds. Motorized golf carts cannot cross the footbridge because it is too narrow. Persons using golf carts and golfers on foot can cross the stream using a wider, flat bridge that is located on the left side of the fairway for the eighth hole.
Zujkowski additionally stated that at least fifteen years ago, the footbridge was covered with matting that is "specifically marketed and designed" for use on golf courses. He said the matting is "roughly textured" with a "woven" material that provides "exceptional grip and traction." According to Zujkowski, the matting is porous by design. Therefore, water and dirt do not collect on its surface. Zujkowski stated that he has crossed the bridge ...