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Due To Lack Of Notice Of Buckled Rug, Casino Hotel Found Not Liable For Plaintiff’s Trip And Fall Over Rug

By on September 10, 2021 in Negligence with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Denean Davis was gambling at defendant’s casino in Atlantic City.  After gambling for about an hour, plaintiff left the building to take a phone call.  When she exited the building, the mat in front of the door was flush against the ground.  Forty-two seconds later when she reentered the building, the rug was “buckled,” causing her to fall on the rug and suffer serious injuries.  The issue in Davis v. DGMB Casino, LLC, d/b/a Resorts Casino Hotel, 2021 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1003 (App. Div. May 25, 2021) was whether the defendant casino had a sufficient amount of notice of the alleged dangerous condition of its property to be liable for the plaintiff’s injury.

During the time period that the plaintiff had exited the building, no other patrons had exited or entered through that door in those forty-two seconds.  When plaintiff fell, she suffered serious injuries to her back and right leg.  She sued the defendant casino alleging negligence caused her injuries.

At the trial court level, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court judge.  The judge “determined that defendant had no opportunity to discover and correct the condition of the mat in the forty-two second period between the time plaintiff exited and reentered through the same door.”

This dismissal was appealed to the Appellate Division.  The Court noted that to establish defendant’s liability, plaintiff needed to show “(1) a duty of care, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) actual and proximate causation, and (4) damages.”  As a business invitee, the defendant owed plaintiff “a duty of reasonable care to guard against any dangerous condition on [its] property that the owner either knows about or should have discovered.”  The Appellate Division pointed out that the plaintiff must prove though that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.  Without proof of notice, that would be fatal to the plaintiff’s claim of liability.  Under the facts in this case, it was clear that the defendant casino did not have actual notice of the buckled rug upon which plaintiff fell.

To establish constructive notice, the plaintiff must be able to show that “the condition existed for such a length of time as reasonably to have resulted in knowledge and correction had the defendant been reasonably diligent.”  It is well-settled law that the mere existence of an alleged dangerous condition is not constructive notice of it.

The Appellate Division noted that the rug became bucked in the forty-two seconds between the time plaintiff exited and then reentered the same door.  The Court agreed with the motion judge that the forty-two seconds during which the rug buckled was insufficient to support a finding of constructive notice.  Hence, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the complaint.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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