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Summary judgment is not appropriate where a rational jury could go either way based on conflicting expert reports making fact-based opinions.

April 1, 2019
McCants v. Kennedy, A-2846-17, 2019 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 464 (App. Div. Feb. 28, 2019)

The plaintiff was a leasee of a unit in a three-family dwelling in Newark that was owned by the defendants. During a freezing-rain storm, the plaintiff attempted to descend the front stairs of his apartment, which were made of brick, when he slipped. In an attempt to break his fall, the plaintiff tried to stabilize his right foot on another brick, which became lose and broke, causing the plaintiff to sustain injuries. Following the commencement of a personal injury lawsuit, the parties obtained liability experts to opine as to the condition of the subject brick staircase. Each expert came to opposite conclusions based on the facts applied to the Multiple Dwelling Code. Notwithstanding, the trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, which was seemingly based on the judge’s personal knowledge of brick masonry and assumptions regarding the duty of care imposed on commercial property owners under the law. The Appellate Division reversed, finding the existence of genuine issues of material fact clouded the motion judge’s application of her “own personal standard” of masonry to the staircase at issue, as well as concluding that the judge erroneously weighed the evidence, which is the function of the jury.


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2019

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