Providence County Superior Court. (PC 10-470). Associate Justice Joseph A. Montalbano.
For Plaintiff: Edward John Mulligan, Esq.
For Defendants: Kevin S. Cotter, Esq. James T. McCormick, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
The plaintiff, Ann Marie Maguire (Maguire or plaintiff), appeals from an order of summary judgment entered against her and in favor of Old Navy, LLC (Old Navy) and BBRG Rhode Island Restaurants, Inc. d/b/a Joe's American Bar and Grill (Joe's) in this personal injury action. Maguire contends that she sustained injuries when she tripped and fell on a public sidewalk. On October 28, 2014, this case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the plaintiff to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
On March 19, 2007, plaintiff, who was and is currently disabled, was walking on
the sidewalk outside Providence Place Mall (the mall) at 144 Providence Place in Providence, Rhode Island, when her " crutch" slipped into a hole in the pavement, causing her to lose her balance and fall to the sidewalk. The plaintiff contended that she suffered injuries as a result of her fall. At that time, the property that abuts the sidewalk at 144 Providence Place was owned by Providence Place Group, L.P., and individual space on the ground floor in close proximity to the fall was leased to Old Navy and Joe's.
On January 22, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint sounding in negligence against the City of Providence (the city), Stephen Napolitano, in his capacity as Treasurer for the City of Providence and/or his successors, Old Navy, and Joe's. The complaint also included both state and federal disability claims against the city, Old Navy, and Joe's, as well as a claim that the city violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794). The complaint alleged that the city was negligent in failing in " its duty to repair, keep, maintain * * * said sidewalk and sidewalk area in a safe condition and oversee and insist that said sidewalk was not in a dangerous and/or negligent condition." The complaint further alleged that Old Navy and Joe's each " had a continuing duty to see that the * * * sidewalk was kept in good repair and maintained in good condition so that it did not become and/or remain in negligent and/or dangerous condition, and a duty to warn of its dangerous and/or negligent condition." The complaint added that Joe's had a special duty to maintain the sidewalk because it " used said sidewalk to further its business" in that it placed tables and chairs outside the restaurant. Significantly, plaintiff did not allege that defendants were responsible for creating or causing the defects in the sidewalk.
On June 25, 2013, Joe's filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the grounds that responsibility for the maintenance of a public sidewalk rested with the city or the State of Rhode Island and that owners or lessees of property abutting public sidewalks do not owe any duty to pedestrians. By virtue of its lack of responsibility for the sidewalk, Joe's added that any alleged violations of state or federal law concerning plaintiff's disability were irrelevant. On July 8, 2013, Old Navy filed its own motion for summary judgment, arguing that it owed no duty to plaintiff because its lease obligated the landlord, ...