Quejada v. ShopRite, No. A-923-19, 2021 WL 162683 (App. Div. Jan. 19, 2021)

Appellate Division affirms trial court’s decision that the mode-of-operation rule did not apply in the area of the grocery store where injury occurred.

The plaintiff slipped and fell on liquid on the floor of the grocery store near the check-out area. Despite the fact that the plaintiff did not see anything on the floor before she fell, she noticed that her clothing was wet after the incident. However, the plaintiff did not know the source of the liquid. At deposition, the plaintiff could not say what the substance was exactly or whether it was the cause of her fall. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the issue of notice, which the trial judge granted, finding that the plaintiff did not establish any nexus between the liquid she alleged caused her fall and the supermarket’s mode-of-operation. The Appellate Division affirmed, stating that the only evidence proffered by the plaintiff was a photograph of a case of bottled water near the checkout counter where she fell. As the bottled water was undoubtedly closed and packaged in plastic, the mode-of-operation rule did not apply, unlike the traditional mode-of-operation situation where loose items are reasonably likely to fall to the ground during self service.


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