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Thompson v. Harrah's Atlantic City Holding, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 17, 2017

HOWARD THPOMPSON and DEBORAH THOMPSON, h/w Plaintiffs,
v.
HARRAH'S ATLANTIC CITY HOLDING, INC., et. al. Defendants.

          OPINION

          Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez, Judge

         This matter arises out of an incident that occurred on May 30, 2012, at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City. Plaintiff claims that he suffered extensive burns to his feet while walking across the outside pool deck. He filed a three-count complaint against several defendants, including the moving defendant, Roofblok Limited, alleging negligence, violations of New Jersey's Product Liability Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:58C-1, and his wife's loss of consortium claim. Specifically, he alleges that Roofblok designed, manufactured, assembled, processed, distributed, reconditioned, maintained, services, installed, inspected and made available for use and/or advertise the pool and sundeck in question, and/or more of its component parts, which are hereinafter referred to as “the product” which were ultimately sold or leased to the hotel defendants and/or one or more of defendant John Doe Corporations, and which ultimately caused the Plaintiffs' injuries and damages.

         Roofblok moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties, without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, summary judgment is granted in favor of Roofblok.

         I. Standard of Review

         A court will grant a motion for summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). Thus, this Court will enter summary judgment only when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c).

         An issue is “genuine” if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is “material” if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Andersen, 477 U.S. at 256-57. Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the finder of fact. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         II. Analysis

         There is no evidence in the record to create a genuine issue of material fact related to whether Rookblok's pavers were a proximate cause of Howard Thompson's injury and summary judgment is granted in favor of Roofblok.

         To establish a right to relief under New Jersey's Product Liability Act, “a plaintiff must show that the defendant manufactured the product, that a reasonably foreseeable user was injured, that the product was defective, that the defect existed when it left the defendant's control, and that the defect was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury.” Worrell v. Elliott & Frantz, 799 F.Supp.2d 343, 350 (D.N.J. 2011) (citing Myrlak v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J., 723 A.2d 45, 52 (N.J. 1999)).

         To establish a claim for common law negligence,

[A] plaintiff must prove tortious conduct, injury and proximate cause. “Proximate cause” has been defined as “any cause which in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces the result complained of and without which the result would not have occurred.” The burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to prove a causal relationship by a preponderance of the evidence. Thus, a plaintiff must show that a defendant's conduct constituted a cause-in-fact of his injuries.

Dawson v. Bunker Hill Plaza Associates, 673 A.2d 847, 853 ( N.J.Super. App. Div. 1996) ...


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