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Riina and Neff Prevail on Behalf of NBA Team after 12-Year Litigation

September 10, 2019
William Riina (Of Counsel-New Jersey) and Robert Neff (Of Counsel-New Jersey) have prevailed in a premises security/fraudulent concealment matter on behalf of an NBA basketball team after 12 years of litigation in two separate lawsuits and a successful appeal. In the original case, plaintiff alleged that high school students attending a game pushed one student onto her causing permanent injuries, and sued the team, the arena and the high school. We extricated the team from that suit with a successful summary judgment motion, with the case proceeding to trial against the remaining defendants, resulting in a defense verdict. Plaintiff filed a second suit against the same defendants and included the team’s insurance carrier and the arena’s in-house counsel, alleging fraudulent concealment of evidence in their alleged refusal to provide and delaying the production of information that allegedly could have enabled plaintiff to identify the students involved. This conduct, plaintiff claimed, led to the defense verdict in the first trial. Following years of extensive discovery, motions for summary judgment by all defendants, including three separate dispositive motions on behalf of the team, were denied.

With trial imminent, the Appellate Division agreed to consider the denials on an interlocutory basis, directing the motion judge to reconsider his denials, with instructions on the law. Following additional briefing and oral argument, the motion judge granted the motions, dismissing all claims of fraudulent concealment and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Division recently – after briefing and oral argument – affirmed the motion judge’s decision, accepting our primary argument and holding that a putative defendant has no pre-suit obligation to assist an adverse party in developing a claim against them. The appellate court also concluded that plaintiff failed to establish any genuine factual dispute on all five elements of her fraudulent concealment claim. The time to seek the New Jersey Supreme Court’s discretionary review of the unanimous appellate decision has now expired.

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