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Graduation: Slipping Into The Future (NY)

November 7, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Van Duser v. Mount Saint Mary College</a></em>, plaintiff sought damages for injuries sustained when she fell on a temporary flooring walkway inside a tent that had been erected at the school for graduation ceremonies. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that the flooring did not present a dangerous or defective condition nor did defendant have actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition. Defendant was granted summary judgment by the lower court.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff appealed and the Appellate Division, Third Department upheld the lower court’s ruling. Plaintiff attempted to argue that defendant failed to properly inspect the premises, or that its use of rubber mats on some portions of the flooring demonstrates that it failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition and defendant chose to use two tent walls and to leave the other sides open, but she did not demonstrate that any water allegedly present on the walkway originated from those open sides, rather than having been tracked in. The Appellate Division rejected that argument.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Division cited the testimony of the plaintiff and defendant’s witness.  Plaintiff testified that it had been “drizzling” before and at the time of her arrival for the graduation, but that she did not notice anything unusual about the walkway when entering the tent. Plaintiff stated that, when she later got up from her seat to use the restroom, she was not looking at the walkway, and she fell to the ground. The security director testified that he did not observe that the flooring was wet at the time of his walk-through before the ceremony, and he received no complaints prior to or during the ceremony about the flooring being wet or slippery.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Court concluded held that property owners are not “required to cover all of [their] floors with mats, nor to continuously mop up all moisture resulting from tracked-in rain” ’ and ruled that the lower court properly granted summary judgment to the defendant.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Paul Vitale for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>

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