United States District Court, D. New Jersey
DANIEL S. MESTRE, JR., Plaintiff,
GARDEN HOMES MANAGEMENT CORP., Defendant/Third-Party, Plaintiff,
R. JEFFREY BUTLER, Third-Party Defendant.
P. MCVAN MCVAN & WEIDENBURNER ON BEHALF OF PLAINTIFF
CHRISTOPHER T. CHANCLER POST & SCHELL PC ON BEHALF OF
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary
judgment on Plaintiff's claims concerning an assault that
occurred at a mobile home community. Defendant's motion
will be denied.
7, 2014, Plaintiff Daniel Mestre resided with his sister,
Kathleen Barrett, in the Town and Country Mobile Home
Community, Chesilhurst, New Jersey,  owned by Defendant Garden
Homes Management Corporation. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on
that day, Jeffrey Butler, the husband of Kathleen,
came to Plaintiff's trailer to discuss comments Plaintiff
had allegedly made about Butler to his sister. Butler hit
Plaintiff twice on the head with a metal pipe. Plaintiff
contends that this was a sudden attack without warning,
lasting approximately 25 to 45 seconds.
sustained serious personal injuries as a result of this
altercation, including a concussion, nasal fractures,
multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung. He was
hospitalized from June 7, 2014 to June 23, 2014. Butler was
charged with assault in relation to this incident but
ultimately found not guilty.
claims that Defendant is liable for plaintiff's injuries
because it owed a duty to maintain its business premises in a
reasonably safe and secure condition and had a duty to warn
its residents of dangerous conditions and to take reasonable
measures to protect them. Plaintiff claims Defendant breached
this duty and was negligent in failing to act reasonably to
protect the community in accordance with its own rules and
regulations by failing to take meaningful measures to remove
Butler from the community prior to the alleged assault.
Plaintiff claims this breach of duty was the cause of his
has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff has
not identified any facts that could sustain a prima facie
case of negligence against Defendant. Defendant argues that
it had no legal duty to protect Plaintiff from the
unforeseeable criminal acts of a third party. Plaintiff has
opposed Defendant's motion. Plaintiff argues that
Butler's attack on Plaintiff was foreseeable because
defendant had notice of Butler's past criminal conduct as
well as addition criminal and dangerous conduct on the
Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332 because there is complete diversity of
citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000. Plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania, and
Defendant is a citizen of Connecticut (its state of
incorporation and its principal place of business).
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that
“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 a
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
issue is “genuine” if it is 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 considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence “is to be
believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Marino v. Industrial Crating Co.,
358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 255). 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. 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.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing
summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere
allegations, general denials, or vague statements.
Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir.
on premises liability for business invitees has been
long-established. “Business owners owe to invitees a
duty of reasonable or due care to provide a safe environment
for doing that which is within the scope of the invitation,
” and that duty of care “requires a business
owner to discover and eliminate dangerous conditions, to
maintain the premises in safe condition, and to avoid
creating conditions that would render the premises
unsafe.” Nisivoccia v. Glass Gardens, Inc.,
818 A.2d 314, 316 (N.J. 2003) (citations omitted).
order to make out a prima facie case of premises
liability, a plaintiff is required to show either (1) that
defendant knew of the unsafe condition for a period of time
prior to plaintiff's injury sufficient to permit
defendant in the exercise of reasonable care to have
corrected it; or (2) that the condition had existed for a
sufficient length of time prior to plaintiff's injury
that in the exercise of reasonable care defendant should have
discovered its existence and corrected it. Lanigan v.
Marina Dist. Development Co., LLC, Civ. A. No. 08-5201,
2011 WL 1211320 (D.N.J. March 28, ...