A motion for summary judgment should only be granted when the record reveals no genuine issue as to any material facts. A recent New Jersey Appellate Court decision examined whether conflicting expert reports served to create a genuine issue of fact to overcome summary judgment.
In Platvoet v. Mancini, the plaintiff sued her own mother after she suffered an injury when she fell into the pool on her mother’s property. Plaintiff’s engineering expert found that the pool’s deck was a “dangerous condition,” violated applicable codes, and that the defendant should have warned the plaintiff of the dangerous condition on the property. Defendant’s expert disagreed on the condition of the property, whether defendant should have warned the plaintiff, and the cause of the accident.
The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal of her claim, arguing that the conflicting expert opinions created genuine issues of fact that precluded summary judgment. The Appellate Court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim, noting that there was absolutely no evidence that the alleged dangerous condition of the pool had anything to do with the accident, and it was undisputed that the plaintiff was thoroughly familiar with the pool configuration.
This case is important because it reveals that the mere existence of an expert report may not be enough to create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to overcome dismissal of a claim. The plaintiff still needs to connect the expert’s findings to the cause of the accident. Hopefully the lawsuit did not dominate conversation at this family’s Thanksgiving dinner!
Thanks to Heather Aquino for her contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.