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Rehabilitation Center Found Not Responsible for Injuries Caused by Fall over Mattress on the Floor Due to it being an Open and Obvious Condition

By on April 1, 2016 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Elizabeth Cunningham was visiting a resident of Briarwood Rehabilitation Center (“Briarwood”) when she tripped over a mattress on the floor and sustained an injury. The defendant Briarwood argued that it owed no duty to the plaintiff to warn of an open and obvious condition. In Cunningham v. Briarwood Care and Rehabilitation Center, Inc., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 566 (App. Div. Mar. 15, 2016), the plaintiff appealed a summary judgment order in favor of the defendants.

The plaintiff had been visiting a resident for 2 hours before the accident happened. She admitted that she saw a mattress on the floor when she first entered the room. It had been placed on the floor as part of a seizure protocol for the resident’s roommate. Plaintiff exited and entered the room at least one time during her visit. However, forgetting that the mattress was there, she walked over to the other side of the room and tripped over the mattress.

Both parties agreed that Briarwood owed plaintiff a duty of reasonable care to warn against known or reasonably discoverable dangerous conditions on the property. The parties disagreed, however, on whether the location of the mattress was open and obvious.

The plaintiff argued that the trial judge erred in finding that the hazardous condition was open and obvious. The Appellate Division, however, agreed with the trial court judge.

The court noted the plaintiff’s admission as to seeing the mattress when she entered the room and remaining there for 2 hours. It was only when she walked to the other side of the room and forgot it was there that she tripped over it. Thus, the court found that even if the mattress being located on the floor was a dangerous condition, no reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the plaintiff was unaware of the condition. The Appellate Division held that the mattress on the floor was open and obvious “and that plaintiff could have, and indeed did, observe the condition through a reasonable use of her faculties.” Hence, it affirmed the trial court’s order, dismissing 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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