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Defendant Wins Summary Judgment Motion in Appellate Court Regarding Slip and Fall in Store


A woman went to a gourmet deli. She was looking at the food items in the refrigerated display cases. She saw that near the end of the display cases, there was a stack of grocery baskets. She picked her way and walked around the stack of grocery baskets but as she was walking around them, her foot got caught underneath the metal stand that held the grocery baskets. Getting her foot caught under metal stand made her trip and fall.

She filed a suit in damages against the deli owner. She claimed in her deposition that while she saw the stack of grocery baskets as soon as she saw the shop, she never noticed that the stack of baskets was resting on a raised metal platform that held the baskets in place. The metal platform was raised about two inches from the floor and it was under the metal platform where her foot got caught.

The deli owner filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss the complaint. The deli owner insists that the platform on which the baskets were stacked was a readily observable hazard and not an inherently dangerous condition.

The trial court granted the summary judgment and dismissed the complaint. This order of the trial court is now the subject of the appeal. The Supreme Court is here asked to determine whether the platform where the grocery baskets were stacked presents an inherently dangerous condition or a readily observable hazard. If the Supreme Court finds that the platform is a readily observable hazard, then it will have to grant the motion for summary judgment and dismiss the complaint.

The Supreme Court found that the deli owner failed to establish that it is entitled to the summary judgment of dismissal as a matter of law. The issue of whether the metal platform which was covered by the baskets constitutes a dangerous condition is an issue of fact that must be tried.

Four of the justices concurred with this finding but two justices filed a dissenting opinion. The dissenting justices opined that the complaint should be dismissed because when the lady came into the gourmet deli, she was looking at the food in the display cases and she was aware of the stack of grocery baskets. She was so aware of it that she walked around the baskets to get a better look at the food in the display case. This proves that she knew well enough to avoid the baskets.

The manager of the deli testified on deposition the she had worked for two years in the deli and the baskets have been stacked in the same place in the store. She was not aware of any accidents involving those baskets. There were 20 baskets stacked on the stand and the height of the stack was up to the middle of the thigh. The metal platform was not protruding from the side or front of the baskets. In fact, the platform was just the same size as the baskets themselves. The deli owner could not have foreseen that the lady would move and get her foot caught under the stack of baskets. The deli owner could not have foreseen that the lady would fall while trying to remove her foot from under the platform.

The platform was an open and obvious condition that could not have been overlooked by an average person using his ordinary abilities. It was admitted by the lady that she avoided the stack of baskets because she saw them there and the stack of baskets prevented her from seeing the food in the display case. There are no issues of fact that need to be tried. The complaint should have been dismissed.

The deli owner in this case probably never thought that he would face a claim for negligence. He is probably unprepared and unable to comprehend the complexities of the law and of legal procedure. Call Stephen Bilkis & Associates, ask to speak to a competent and well-trained New York Trip and Fall lawyer who can explain to you your rights as well as your obligations. A New York Trip and Fall Attorney from Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help build your case and argue your side to make sure that you are not a victim of a baseless negligence claim.

Do not delay; meet with a New York Trip and Fall lawyer from Stephen Bilkis & Associates at any of its offices conveniently located throughout the New York area. Consult a New York Trip and Fall Attorney so that you do not unnecessarily lose your rights or your money.

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