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Goodman v. Shore Club Condominium Association

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

September 10, 2018

TERRI GOODMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SHORE CLUB CONDOMINIUM ASSOC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          JOEL SCHNEIDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the “Motion for Summary Judgment” (“motion”) [Doc. No. 27] filed by defendant Margate City (“Margate” or “defendant”). The Court is called upon to address whether there is sufficient evidence in the record to support plaintiff's claims against Margate arising out of a trip and fall that occurred in the parking lot of a condominium complex. No. opposition was filed. The Court exercises its discretion to decide Margate's motion without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L. Civ. R. 78.1. For the reasons to be discussed, Margate's motion is GRANTED.[1]

         Background

         The 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 Realty Company (“Thompson Realty”) and Shore Club Condominium Association (“Shore Club”).[2] Id. at ¶ 2.

         On January 1, 2016, plaintiff Terri Goodman tripped and fell in the 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.

         On January 22, 2016, plaintiffs served a Tort Claims Notice upon defendant Margate. See January 22, 2016 Letter to Margate City, Ex. C to Mot. [Doc. No. 27]. The letter stated:

Mrs. Goodman was injured while walking in the dark parking lot of the Shore Club Condominium side parking lot. The incident happened approximately 8:20 p.m. From examination of the photos of the area it appears that there is a possibility that your water department concrete pad installation disrupted the blacktop causing a tripping hazard. Therefore, we are putting you on notice of our claim.

         On 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.

         Plaintiffs allege the parking lot at Shore Club was “poorly lit, defective and dangerous.” Id. Plaintiffs further allege 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. It is further alleged that defendant Margate “owned and possessed, maintained and controlled the area” where plaintiff tripped and fell “and may have built or constructed the area in a dangerous and defective condition and maintained and controlled the area in a dangerous and defective condition.” Id. at ¶ 13. 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 ¶ 14. As to Margate specifically, plaintiffs allege Margate was negligent because it “[i]mproperly create[ed] and maintain[ed] the area in question which was a trip step” and it “fail[ed] to warn pedestrians of the dangerous condition.” Id.

         Margate filed this motion seeking judgment in its favor, arguing generally: (1) Margate had no ownership or control over the area in question, and thus, it cannot be held liable for any alleged dangerous condition; (2) even if Margate had ownership or control over the area, it had no notice of any alleged dangerous condition, a prerequisite to liability under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act; and (3) any action or inaction on the part of Margate was not palpably unreasonable, an additional requirement under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.[3] Plaintiffs did not file a response to Margate's motion.

         The Court agrees there is not sufficient evidence in the record from which it could be determined Margate had ownership or control over the area where plaintiff fell. Further, even if there existed a dangerous condition on property owned or controlled by Margate, there is no evidence in the record from which it could be determined Margate had actual or constructive notice of any such condition. Accordingly, Margate's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court 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 ...


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