In Promise v. Khubani Enterprises, Inc., Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-4160-17T4, the New Jersey Appellate Division, in an unpublished opinion, found that spoliation of a chair that caused plaintiff’s injury was insufficient to preclude summary judgment.
Plaintiff Betty Promise was sitting in a chair in the basement laundry room of her apartment building when a leg on the chair gave way. She named the manufacturer of the chair, the installer of the chair and the building owner in a lawsuit, claiming that she suffered injuries to her shoulder, arm, neck, back and knees. Ms. Promise’s family members took photographs of the chair after the incident and gave them to her attorney who sent a preservation letter requesting that the chair be preserved. The building owner failed to preserve the chair.
The trial court granted summary judgment to the installer of the chair and the building owner. The trial court found that spoliation of the chair was only relevant to a product liability claim on the part of the manufacturer. It further found that plaintiff was required to show that either the installer of the chair or the building owner had actual or constructive notice that the chair was defective.
The Appellate Division discussed the different remedies for spoliation of evidence depending on when the spoliation is discovered.Remedies include a “spoliation inference” or allowing plaintiff to plead fraudulent concealment. In this case, the spoliation was discovered during the pending litigation.
Because Plaintiff’s appeal of the grant of summary judgment was only as to the landowner, the appellate panel viewed the potential liability in the context of a premises/negligence claim. Its review of the record revealed no evidence that the landowner had actual or constructive notice of a defective chair in the laundry room. As such, it concluded that the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the landowner was appropriate.
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