United States District Court, D. New Jersey
William Joseph Stopper, Esq. STOPPER LOPEZ, LLC Attorney for
Kristin Lynn Vassallo Assistant U.S. Attorney OFFICE OF THE
U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY Attorney for
Defendant GSA Northeast Distribution Center.
Anthony LaSalvia, Esq. KENNEDY, CAMPBELL, LIPSKI &
DOCHNEY Attorney for Defendant CBRE, Inc.
A. Wescoe, Esq. WEBER GALLAGHER SIMPSON STAPLETON FIRES &
NEWBY, LLP Attorney for Defendant Fluidics, Inc.
B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Nellie Mele (hereinafter, “Mrs. Mele”) and her
husband, Gerald Mele, brought this action alleging that Mrs.
Nelle tripped and fell over a wheel chock as a result of
Defendants' negligence. This matter comes before the
Court on the motions of Defendants Fluidics, Inc.
(hereinafter, “Fluidics”) and CBRE, Inc.
(hereinafter, “CBRE”) for summary judgment.
[Docket Items 19 and 20.] For the reasons stated herein,
Fluidics' motion will be granted and CBRE's motion
will be denied.
Mele was an employee of the Occupational Training Center
(“OTC”). At approximately 10:00 a.m. on May 20,
2014, Mrs. Mele tripped and fell while walking into her place
of employment, an office building located at 1900 River Road
in Burlington, New Jersey. (Pl.'s Response to Interrog.
¶ 2; Mele Dep. 73:1-6.) The fall took place as Mrs. Mele
was returning to work after her morning break while walking
through a door commonly referred to by the parties as
“Door 141.” Door 141 would lock from the inside
if allowed to fully close and could not be propped open using
the door's hinge mechanism. (Chichilitti Dep. 25:5-11.)
Accordingly, wheel chocks or sticks were often used to prop open
the door, so that employees could easily enter and exit the
facility during work breaks and to allow ventilation into the
building. (Mele Dep. 98:7-99:13, 117:8-118:9.)
day of the fall, a wheel chock was propping open Door 141.
(Pl.'s Response to Interrog. ¶ 2.) Mrs. Mele
testified that she had previously been aware of the chock at
Door 141, but was unsure how many days it had been there
prior to the date of her fall. (Mele Dep. 98:3-6,
113:20-115:1.) Neither Mrs. Mele nor any of Defendants'
witnesses know who originally placed the wheel chock at Door
141. (Mele Dep. 114:17-115:1, 115:22-25, 136:7-23;
Chichilitti Dep. 27:18-20; Glassberg Dep. 36:14-22.)
Mele testified that, while reentering Door 141 after her
morning break on May 20, 2014, her right foot caught the top
of the wheel chock and she fell into the door and onto the
ground. (Mele Dep. 89:2-18, 103:3-14.) Mrs. Mele claims that
the fall seriously injured her right shoulder and right hand.
(Mele Dep. 57:21-58:6.) As a result of the injuries she
allegedly sustained, Mrs. Mele underwent shoulder surgery in
October 2014 (Mele Dep. 56:1-4), and received rehabilitation
treatment in 2015. (Mele Dep. 58:7-25.) She continues to take
pain and sleeping medication because of ongoing pain and
numbness that she feels in her shoulder. (Mele Dep. 63:3-25,
64:19-25, 124:21-125:3, 127:19-128-16.)
time of the fall, Mrs. Mele was employed by OTC, which was
located in a warehouse facility at 1900 River Road.
(Pl.'s Response to Interrog. ¶ 2) Between December
14, 2010 and the time of the fall, the warehouse facility was
owned by 1900 River Road, LLC and leased to the General
Services Administration (hereinafter, “GSA”), an
agency of the U.S. Government. (Exhibit B to Fluidics Summary
Judgment Motion) According to the lease, 1900 River Road, LLC
was “responsible for the total maintenance and repair
of the leased premises” (Id. at 19, ¶
4.11.A), and for maintaining the buildings and space in a
“safe and healthful condition according to OSHA
standards.” (Id. at 36, ¶ 9.4.)
before January 1, 2010, CBRE (also referred to in contracts
as “CB Richard Ellis”) entered into an
arrangement with 1900 River Road, LLC, whereby CBRE would act
as the property manager for the building at 1900 River Road.
(Glassberg Dep. 12:9-15, 26:7-9.) Among the various roles it
performed as property manager, ...