Piano Lawsuit Dismissed – Music to the Defense’s Ears (NJ)
What do you do when the very experienced piano movers that you hired are unable to move the piano on your property? In a recent New Jersey case, the defendants were faced with that dilemma after the plaintiff was unsuccessful at moving a piano down the home’s stairwell. In Barbato v. Gallagher, the defendant homeowners noted that the piano had been moved into the home by utilizing the back deck, and the plaintiff opted to try this method himself.
The plaintiff and his coworkers reported to the back deck but realized they could not move the piano due to the presence of a grill stand on the deck. The plaintiff then opted to stand on the grill stand while moving the piano. Not surprisingly, this resulted in an injury when the grill stand separated from the main portion of the deck. The plaintiff fell, and a portion of the piano fell on top of him.
The facts of the case revealed that the grill stand was in place when the defendants purchased the home, and a home inspection did not reveal any issues with the stand. However, plaintiff’s expert found issues with the screws in the grill stand and corrosion/deterioration.
Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because he was hired as a professional piano mover, and the defendants did not supervise him or oversee his work. Additionally, the defendants argued that they had no actual or constructive notice of any issues with the grill stand. The trial court found that the defendants did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and dismissed the complaint.
The Appellate Court upheld the dismissal but disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning. While finding that the defendants did owe the plaintiff a duty of care, the Court found that there was no evidence of actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition on the property. Accordingly, defendants did not breach their duty of care. This case highlights the importance of establishing the lack of any actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition on a defendant’s property.
Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.