In the matter of Johanna Cortes v. BJ’s Wholesale Club, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 16-5513-SDW-JAD, Decided, December 19, 2019, U. S. District Judge Wigenton granted defendant BJ’S Wholesale Club’s motion for summary judgment finding that BJ’s did not have actual or constructive notice of a pool of water in an aisle at its Linden, New Jersey store. The water allegedly came from a cart left in the aisle that contained melting snow, resulting in a pool of water underneath the cart. The Court also rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that the cart had remained in the aisle long enough for enough snow to melt to a cause a “two-foot-wide puddle to accumulate on the ground”. It found that argument to be an unsupported allegation which, even if true, did not create a genuine issue of material fact regarding constructive notice.
On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff was shopping at a BJ’s store in Linden, New Jersey when she slipped on a pool of water that allegedly came from a cart left in the aisle that had melting snow. The Court found that there was no evidence in the record as to where the cart came from, who had placed the cart in the aisle, how long the cart had been there prior to Plaintiff’s fall, how much snow was on the cart, how much snow had melted or how long the puddle had been on the floor.
After reviewing New Jersey law regarding the duty of care owed by business owners to their patrons to maintain a safe premises, Judge Wigenton found no evidence in the record that BJ’s had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. Plaintiff did not recall any wheel marks, tire marks or footmarks in the water or any evidence that someone had walked through the water prior to her fall. The Court concluded that Plaintiffs’ proof was limited to demonstrating that there was a puddle of water in the aisle that allegedly caused her to fall. Since there was no admissible evidence against BJ’s, the Court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
This decision demonstrates that the federal courts in New Jersey are not reluctant to grant summary judgment to a defendant in a slip and fall case if a plaintiff’s proofs fall short of the standards under New Jersey law applicable to business owners.
For further information, contact Joe Gallo in our Florham Park office at (973) 822-1110.