Premises Liability: Slattery v. Tops Markets, LLC (N.Y. App. Div., 4th Dept.)


June 21, 2017

by Melissa A. Foti, Esq.

 

In Slattery, the decedent plaintiff allegedly tripped and fell on a rug that had been laid flat over a “recessed mat system” at the entrance to a Tops Markets grocery store. Plaintiff’s estate sued Tops, alleging the rug and its placement constituted a dangerous and defective condition.
Tops moved for summary judgment, arguing plaintiff tripped because plaintiff’s foot had “picked up the edge of the rug,” not because the rug was dangerous or defective. Tops submitted evidence including photographs of the rug, video of the accident, and plaintiff’s deposition testimony stating he had not seen anything wrong with the rug before the accident. In opposition, plaintiff submitted an expert affidavit opining that the rug was “not designed to be used over another carpet” and that its placement over the recessed mat system had caused a tripping hazard. The Supreme Court, Erie County, denied the motion, finding an issue of fact. Tops appealed.
On February 10, 2017, the Fourth Department unanimously reversed. While whether a condition is dangerous or defective is generally a question of fact for a jury, the Court held that summary judgment may nevertheless be appropriate where the plaintiff fails to submit any evidence that the condition is actually dangerous or defective. Based on the evidence submitted by Tops, the Court found the rug and its placement were not inherently dangerous. The video suggested the rug had not slipped, and that plaintiff simply tripped over the front edge of the rug. The Court agreed with Tops that plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit was speculative, conclusory, and insufficient to raise an issue of fact as to the condition of the area at the time of the accident, because it was based on an examination of the area approximately 2.5 years after the accident occurred. The Court dismissed the complaint.