A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Homeowner Found To Have No Liability For Slip On Diving Board

By on June 5, 2014 in Blog with 0 Comments

Plaintiff James Stackhouse went for a swim in the defendant homeowner’s pool upon the invite of the defendant’s son. He slipped on an oily substance on the diving board and hurt his knee. In Stackhouse v. Bryant, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1189 (App.Div. May 23, 2014), he sued the defendant for his injury, claiming that the diving board was a dangerous condition. The trial court granted summary judgment, dismissing the complaint as to the defendant, and this appeal ensued.

Others used the diving board prior to the plaintiff with no problem with the surface. No one was eating or drinking near the board. The plaintiff had used diving boards before and knew of the need to exercise caution. There had never been any prior incidents with the diving board.

 The trial judge found that the plaintiff was a social guest in the defendant’s home, notwithstanding the defendant’s lack of knowledge of his presence. Given the defendant had no reason to know of any dangerous condition of the diving board, he had no duty to rectify the condition or warn plaintiff of its presence.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the court should have analyzed this premises liability suit by applying the more flexible approach of Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, 132 N.J. 426 (1993) and, as a result, the dismissal should be reversed. The Appellate Division disagreed.

It found that the plaintiff easily fit into one of the traditional status categories as a social guest. However, even analyzing liability based upon the Hopkins test, when one considered the relationship of the parties to determine if it is fair and just to impose a duty upon the landowner, the court found that it would be neither fair, nor just to impose a duty.

The plaintiff was unable to point to any evidence that defendant knew or had reason to know of an oily substance on the diving board. A homeowner has no duty to warn a social guest of a dangerous condition that the homeowner does not know, or should not know, exists. It would be unfair to impose a duty to warn on a homeowner to warn or remediate a transient condition of which he was unaware. Thus, under either the traditional analysis or the Hopkins test, the result would be the same. Hence, the Appellate Division upheld the dismissal of 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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