An Expert Opinion Doesn’t Always Defeat A Summary Judgment Motion (NJ)

In Muccia v. El Coronado Condo Assn, an unpublished opinion, New Jersey’s Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in a personal injury action to defendant, a resort association. Plaintiff rented a condominium in the resort and while inside her rented unit, tripped over one step leading from the living room to the foyer.

At the close of discovery, defendant moved for and was granted summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed on the basis that her expert report created a triable issue of fact as to whether a hand rail was required for the step. The Appellate Division, however disagreed with plaintiff and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

The court highlighted that plaintiff’s expert report was issued five days prior to plaintiff’s deposition and months before any defense deposition. In addition, the court emphasized the assertions in defendant’s expert report that the code provisions cited in plaintiff’s expert report were inapplicable to the particular interior step at issue. Finally, the court noted that Bureau of Housing Inspection reports from 2004 and 2009 found the particular condo unit where plaintiff was injured to be absent of any violation (information also contained in defendant’s expert report).

Because plaintiff did not dispute the assertions in defendants expert report in her opposition to the summary judgment motion, the Appellate Division found that plaintiff’s expert report did not raise a triable issue of fact.

Special thanks to Alison Weintraub for her contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Paul Clark at pclark@wcmlaw.com.