In Giannotti v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, plaintiff was a patron who brought an action against Hudson Valley Credit Union, seeking damages for personal injuries she sustained in a trip-and-fall accident in the credit union’s lobby.
On April 16, 2013, the plaintiff walked with a Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union employee towards an office presumably to discuss a banking or credit union matter. She tripped over part of a sectional rug laid over a tile floor. After the fall, plaintiff noticed that part of the rubber edge of the rug was bent upwards. Plaintiff sued Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union for personal injuries. Defendant made a motion to dismiss the case (summary judgment). The Supreme Court of Orange County granted defendant’s motion for dismissal/summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed.
Here, the court held that the defendant established, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff did not have knowledge as to what caused the defect in the rug. There was no evidence in the record that established the defect was caused by the defendant. For example, the defendant submitted a transcript from plaintiff’s deposition, during which she testified that she did not notice the rug at any time prior to her fall and that she only observed the defect in the rug after she fell. Further, the defendant offered testimony and an affidavit from the defendant’s employee who was walking with plaintiff at the time of the fall. The employee’s testified that she did not see any condition with respect to the rug which would be the cause of anyone trip and fall. In addition, the defendant submitted surveillance camera footage from the day of plaintiff’s fall which showed the rugs condition at the time of the fall. According to the footage, there was no sign that the rug was defective prior to plaintiff’s fall.
Therefore, the court held that without proof that the defect existed prior to plaintiff’s fall, there is a possibility that the fall, itself, actually caused the folded condition of the rug. Since there was no proof that the defect existed prior to the fall, a jury would be required to speculate as to the cause of the fall which the legal system will not permit.
Since the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact and establish the existence of the condition prior to the fall, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
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