It is the burden of the nonmoving party in a summary judgment proceeding to prove the existence of a disputed issue of material fact by competent evidence; it cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings or on conclusions or legal opinions.
While the son was running during a touch football game on the owner's property, he tripped over an unseen metal pole that was protruding from the ground. He fell on the ground and struck a second metal pole, lacerating his left thigh. The parents sued the owner of the property, seeking damages for injuries suffered by their son. The owner argued that the parents raised no material facts from which a jury could conclude (1) that the owner knew or had reason to know children were likely to trespass on the property, or (2) that there was any dangerous condition on its land of which it knew or had reason to know. The Providence County Superior Court (Rhode Island) entered summary judgment in favor of the owner and the parents appealed.
Was an entry of summary judgment proper?
The Court held that the entry of summary judgment was improper. The facts gave rise to a genuine factual dispute about whether the owner knew or had reason to know that children were likely to trespass on the lot for purposes of the attractive nuisance doctrine. An employee of the owner testified that he personally had visited the property five or six times over two years. He also described monthly maintenance by a grounds-keeping crew that mowed the grass and removed debris. Based on these activities by a variety of the owner's agents, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the owner knew or had reason to know of the metal stakes protruding from the ground.