31-1-6931 McDaid v. Aztec W. Condo. Ass’n, N.J. (Albin, J.) (26 pp.) Plaintiff appealed from the appellate division’s decision affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff alleged that she suffered serious injuries while exiting an elevator when the elevator doors suddenly and repeatedly closed on her. Several days after the accident, city officials inspected the elevator and determined that the “electric eye”, which detected the presence of objects in the path of the elevator doors and prevented the doors from closing on an object, was malfunctioning. Plaintiff’s expert report concluded that the malfunctioning electric eye caused plaintiff’s accident. In response, defendants’ expert concluded that plaintiff’s failure to clear the doors in a timely manner was the proximate cause of her injuries as the elevator was “properly maintained” at the time of the accident. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, declining to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor because malfunctioning elevator doors did not “ordinarily bespeak negligence”. The trial court further found that plaintiff failed to present other affirmative evidence that would exclude other causes of the malfunctioning doors. On appeal, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment, ruling that res ipsa loquitor was applicable because common experience taught that elevator doors ordinarily should not close on a person entering or exiting the elevator in the absence of negligence. The court rejected the trial court’s assertion that plaintiff had an obligation to exclude other possible causes for the malfunction or to show that defendants were on notice of a malfunction. The court held that defendants would be free at trial to present their defenses to overcome the res ipsa loquitor inference with the jury.
First posted in the New Jersey State Bar Association Daily Briefing 7/18/18
Kevin M. Regan, Esq. Personal Injury Attorney Accident Lawyer Injury Lawyer Morris County Passaic County Bergen County Essex County Hudson County