The New Jersey Appellate Division, in an unpublished decision, Christine Spigai v. Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. (Appeal No. A-4242-16T4) (Decided January 11, 2019), affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment by agreeing that no reasonable juror could find as to the tort claim defendant (New Jersey Turnpike Authority) “a condition of property that creates a substantial risk of injury when such property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.” N.J.S.A. 59:4-1(a). It further agreed that the obvious nature of the wet grass on the hill made it impossible for plaintiff to recover against Live Nation, a defendant without statutory immunities.
Spigai had “lawn seats” for a concert at the PNC Arts Center which is owned by defendant New Jersey Turnpike Authority and operated by defendant Live Nation. After the concert, Spigai and her friends made their way back to the buses that would take them to their car. Spigai became separated from her friends, chose not to wait for the next bus and decided to walk toward the lot where her car was parked
The parking lot is located at the foot of a grassy hill. There is a sidewalk along the top of the hill leading to a staircase down to the lot. Plaintiff did not use the staircase but chose to walk down the wet, grassy slope wearing flip-flops, while carrying a chair, while carrying a tote bag, while carrying a tarp and while talking to her husband on her cell phone. While walking down the slope, Spigai slipped and broke her leg. Plaintiff argued that defendants, among other things, failed to provide barriers to guide concertgoers and performed negligent crowd control. Their negligence, Spigai contended, left her no choice but to use the wet, grassy slope to get to her car.
The trial court also found that no “reasonable juror could find that the Turnpike Authority’s conduct for permitting the existence of a natural hill on the land made wet from the weather to be palpably unreasonable.” Plaintiffs failed to prove that the Turnpike Authority’s conduct was palpably unreasonable, an additional hurdle for plaintiffs to surmount when suing a tort claim defendant.
As to Live Nation, the judge found Spigai failed to provide sufficient evidence the defendants failed to provide a reasonably safe place. A stairwell was provided for patrons to access the parking lot and there was no evidence that concertgoers were prevented from using the stairs. While it may have taken a few minutes longer for plaintiff to wait for the next shuttle or to walk over to the stairs where she reached the parking lot defendants provided adequate accommodations to concert goers to account for their safety.
The trial court noted that Plaintiff chose not to wait for the shuttle, chose to walk down the grassy hill and chose not to use the stairs to reach the parking lot. Even affording plaintiff all reasonable inferences, the Court assumed defendant was aware that patrons used this path on a regular basis. However, the fact that grass is slippery when wet is matter of common knowledge and it goes against a sense of basic fairness to impose a duty to warn that grass is slippery when wet.
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