JETBLUE LOSES ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT TO DISMISS COMPLAINT OF AGAINST ACCIDENT VICTIM WHO FELL ON JETBRIDGE AT J.F.K. AIRPORT

Court: Supreme Court, Queens County, New York

Case: Janet Alicea v. JetBlue Airways Corporation and The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J.

Date: Feb. 3, 2012

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Queens; Queens injury attorney)

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On July 10, 2008 Janet Alicea (plaintiff) tripped and fell on a jetbridge at JFK Airport while exiting from a JetBlue flight from Puerto Rico. She tripped and fell on the jetbridge connecting the terminal to the plane. She claims there was a one to two-inch high raised area on the jetbridge. Naturally, she only noticed it after she fell.

Defendant Port Authority leases the airport from the City of New York, and operates it.

Third-party defendant Oxford does maintenance on the jetbridge.

Port Authority has made a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to let it out because it is an out-of-possession landlord and can=t be liable for the condition, if any, that caused plaintiff's accident. Port Authority attached its lease with JetBlue, which satisfied its initial burden as the party making the motion. The appeals court holds "Port Authority has satisfied its prima facie burden of establishing that it was an out‑of‑possession lessor that did not retain control of the premises and was not contractually obligated to maintain or repair the premises." So Port Authority is out of the case.

JetBlue has also asked the court to let it out of the case on summary judgment. JetBlue argues that it had no notice of a defective condition, that it didn't create any dangerous condition, and that, tellingly, Janet Alicea couldn't tell what caused her to fall. The Court notes: "To meet its initial burden on the issue of lack of constructive notice, [Jetblue] must offer some evidence as to when the area in question was last ... inspected relative to the time when the plaintiff fell."

JetBlue submitted transcripts of deposition testimony and affidavits from various of its employees. JetBlue had no records of any complaints about the jetbridge; but it didn't keep records of such complaints. And the court holds that it failed to show a lack of "actual notice" of a problem with the jetbridge. JetBlue does not get out of this case on summary judgment; it takes the ride to trial.

Oxford also moves for summary judgment. Its records show that it conducted a preventative maintenance inspection was performed on the jetbridge the day before Janet Alicea's accident. However, the report of the inspection was missing information; Oxford couldn't tell if the inspection was completed on the date indicated. With incomplete records, the court found that, "JetBlue has failed to demonstrate that it lacked constructive notice of the alleged condition by conclusively showing that there was no dangerous condition observed at the time a preventative maintenance inspection was performed on the day before plaintiff's fall."

No here the part of this decision that sounds screwy to me. It is well-established in personal injury law that if a plaintiff can't say what caused him or her to fall, they lose. Period. Here, the court noted that plaintiff couldn't say what caused her to fall, but then stated that because she testified to the alleged condition being a small ramp, a raised portion and a height differential, JetBlue has failed to demonstrate that there was no inherently dangerous defect on the floor of the jetbridge.

Oxford wins dismissal of Port Authority's claims against it, because Port Authority is out of the case anyway. JetBlue's claim against Oxford for common law indemnification survives Oxford's motion, because there are "issues of fact." As to Oxford's attempt to dismiss JetBlue=s claim for contractual indemnification, because it is unclear what caused the accident,

Oxford fails to show that Janet Alicea's fall didn't arise out of its maintenance and/or inspection services, and Oxford loses its request for summary judgment to knock out JetBlue's claim, and stays in the case.

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