United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
SCHNEIDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the “Motion for Summary
Judgment” (“motion”) [Doc. No. 28] filed by
defendants Shore Club Condominium Association (“Shore
Club”) and Thompson Realty Company
(“Thompson”). The Court is called upon to address
whether defendants are immune from suit, and whether
plaintiffs have presented a prima facie claim of negligence.
The Court received plaintiffs' opposition. [Doc. No. 29].
The Court exercises its discretion to decide defendants'
motion without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L. Civ. R.
78.1. For the reasons to be discussed, defendants' motion
Court will begin with a summary of the background facts. As
required in the present context, plaintiffs will be given the
benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts of record
and the evidence will be viewed in the light most favorable
to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs in this action are Joel and Terri
Goodman, husband and wife residing in Pennsylvania. Second
Am. Compl. (“SAC”) at ¶ 1 [Doc. No. 21].
Defendants in this action are Margate City
(“Margate”), Thompson and Shore
Club. Id. at ¶ 2.
January 1, 2016, plaintiff Terri Goodman tripped and fell on
the way to her car that was parked in the Adams Avenue
parking lot of Shore Club Condominiums where the Goodmans are
unit owners. Id. Plaintiff severely fractured her
arm as a result of the fall. Id. She required
surgery and the placement of pins and plates to repair her
arm. Id. at ¶ 9.
April 3, 2017, plaintiffs filed the initial complaint in this
action. [Doc. No. 1]. On November 16, 2017, plaintiffs filed
their second amended complaint, which is the operative
complaint. SAC at ¶¶ 1, 2.
allege the parking lot at Shore Club was “poorly lit,
defective and dangerous.” Id. Plaintiffs
further contend that “[f]or some time prior to the date
of the accident . . . defendant Shore Club Condominium
Association owned, possessed maintained and controlled the
area in question.” Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiffs
also aver the area where plaintiff fell was “possessed,
managed and controlled by defendant Thompson Realty Company,
which negligently and carelessly maintained and controlled
the area.” Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege
defendants were negligent in “[f]ailing to warn
plaintiffs of a dangerous condition, failing to provide
proper lighting, failing to fix the dangerous and defective
condition which was a tripping hazard, causing a dangerous
and defective condition which was a tripping hazard, [and]
otherwise acting negligently.” Id. at ¶
Club and Thompson filed their motion seeking summary
judgment, arguing generally: (1) Shore Club is immune from
suit pursuant to its own bylaws; (2) if Shore Club is immune,
Thompson cannot be held liable as Thompson is merely an agent
of Shore Club; (3) plaintiffs cannot make out a prima facie
claim of negligence. Plaintiffs counter that: (1) Shore
Club's bylaws do not specifically confer immunity upon
the condominium association for a claim of bodily injury; (2)
Shore Club cannot be afforded public sidewalk immunity
because the area where plaintiff fell was a private parking
lot owned and controlled by Shore Club; and (3) they have
presented a prima facie claim of negligence sufficient to
present to a jury. For the reasons discussed below,
defendants' summary judgment motion is denied.
Summary Judgment Standard
should grant summary judgment when the record demonstrates
“there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the
non-moving party on an issue affecting the outcome of the
litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To
determine if a material fact exists a court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
“The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his
favor.” Id. at 255.
moving party has the initial burden to demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Where, as here, the
nonmoving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, the
moving party may be entitled to summary judgment by observing
that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential
element of the nonmoving party's case. Id. at
325; see also Rahman v. Taylor, C.A. No. 10-0367
(JBS/KMW), 2013 WL 1192352, at *2-3 (D.N.J. Mar. 21, 2013).
Fed.R.Civ.P. 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 Corp., 477
U.S. at 322.
plaintiff opposing a defendant's motion for summary
judgment has the burden of coming forward with evidence, not
mere allegations, that raise a genuine dispute of material
fact and suffice to enable a reasonable jury, giving all
favorable inferences to the plaintiff as the party opposing
summary judgment, to find in plaintiff's favor at trial.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) further provides that, to create a
genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must do so by:
citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.
Condominium Association Immunity
Club contends it is immune pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-13(a),
which confers immunity upon condominium associations if said
immunity is explicitly set forth in a condominium
association's bylaws. Def.'s Br. at 7. Plaintiffs
contend Shore Club's reference to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-13(a)
is misplaced because the bylaws do not specifically provide
for immunity to the association, nor do they provide immunity
specifically for claims of bodily injury. Pl.'s Br. at 3.
Plaintiffs point out that the bylaws merely provide limited
immunity to the board and the individual members of the ...