NEW JERSEY SUPERIOR COURT: SUMMARY JUDGMENT GRANTED – PEDESTRIAN KNOCKDOWN
Sobel Pevzner, LLC, in the defense of a national “big box” retailer, successfully moved for summary judgment in this pedestrian knockdown case. The plaintiff, while walking in a parking lot was struck by a vehicle operated by the co-defendant in the parking lot situated on the premises owned by co-defendant landlord. Plaintiff, a 37 year old woman, had completed her shopping and was crossing the main thoroughfare in front of our client’s store when she was struck by the vehicle operated by co-defendant, who claimed she did not see plaintiff prior to the accident. Plaintiff alleged that the firm’s client negligently owned, leased, managed, and/or inspected the premises so as to permit motor vehicles to travel in an uncontrolled manner. Plaintiff further alleged that the client failed to provide a safe manner of pedestrian travel, which caused or contributed to the accident. Plaintiff alleged significant bodily injuries in the form of multiple orthopedic injuries including spinal injuries necessitating a L5-S1 fusion with hardware as well as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with residual post-concussive complaints, memory and concentration issues, and double vision.
Prior to the close of discovery, Paul Lefevbre, Esq. prepared and filed the firm’s Motion for Summary Judgment. In New Jersey, due in large part to the “mode of operation” basis for premises liability cases, Motions for Summary Judgment are rarely granted; even more so when the dispositive motion is made during discovery. Nonetheless, the firm elected to file the motion so as to curtail further litigation costs. Had the motion not been granted the firm’s self insured client would have had to bear the cost of voluminous medical record reviews, as well as multiple defense IMEs with various specialists to evaluate plaintiff’s orthopedic and neurologic injuries.
In the Motion for Summary Judgment, the primary argument was based upon the lease between the client and co-defendant landlord. Pursuant to this agreement, the responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the parking lot was placed on the co-defendant landlord generally. Moreover, the lease imbued the landlord with the obligation to properly marking the lot for purposes of traffic flow and to ensure that the parking lot itself was in full compliance with zoning and building codes. The motion was opposed by the plaintiff as well as the co-defendant vehicle operator.
After a lengthy hearing at which Mr. Lefevbre argued the firms position and was opposed by all parties, the Court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed all claims and cross-claims against the firm’s client with prejudice. The Court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to the retailer’s lack of responsibility for the parking lot and found as a matter of law that the client could not be found liable for the accident or plaintiff’s injuries.