New Jersey Court Grants Summary Judgment Releasing Developer from Basketball Injury Action

Dec 1, 2023

A New Jersey state court has granted summary judgment to a developer, which had been pulled into a lawsuit brought by a basketball player against a fitness club, after the basketball player suffered an injury on the club’s basketball court.

The litigation, Gangi v. King’s Court Health Club et al., was initiated after Gangi tore his Achilles tendon, while playing basketball on February 15, 2021. Gangi alleged that the condition of the floor caused his injury. 

The club’s insurer brought Carla Development Corp. into the action. Carla is the owner of a building in question, which housed two gym facilities, one called King’s Court Health Club and the other called Empire Sports and Fitness. Carla retained Ricci Tyrrell Johnson & Grey as legal representation in the matter.

By way of background, King’s gave up its racquetball courts and Empire expanded its lease with Carla to include the courts. Carla removed the walls between the courts, and Empire agreed, upon taking possession, to turn those courts into a basketball court. It hired defendant Rob’s Maintenance to replace the floorboards where the walls once stood and to paint the courts. 

Empire took possession and had the work completed by Rob’s in early February 2021. Carla had no role in the work, approving the plans, etc. The lease placed maintenance and repair responsibility on Empire. The lease also required Empire to indemnify Carla (but NOT for its own negligence), and to insure Carla and have it named as an additional insured. 

After the floor work, Empire began renting the space for basketball games. Gangi was part of a group that rented the space.

At the close of discovery, Carla moved for summary judgment on substance as a landlord out of possession. Plaintiff disputed the motion, arguing that prior work removing the walls created potential liability. The Judge agreed with Carla’s position, finding Carla had completely turned possession and control over to Empire, who took it as they received it, and Empire’s (Rob’s) work was not attributable to Carla. 

On coverage, the Court found coverage under the insured contract provision of the Empire policy with its insurer. Since Carla was now determined NOT to be negligent, the provision was applicable. Carla was awarded judgment and all costs and fees through the time of the motion.

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