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Mitchell v. WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 11, 2013

WSG BAY HILLS IV, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.


RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

This is a diversity case in which the Plaintiff Doris Mitchell asserts claims of negligence and nuisance against the Defendants WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC and Century Golf Partners Management, LP.[1] Specifically, Mitchell resided in a residential community built adjacent to a golf course existing for the previous twenty-eight years. She was ultimately struck on the leg by an errant golf ball driven by an unknown golfer. The Plaintiff contends that the Defendants negligently failed to take sufficient measures to prevent errant golf shots from entering the residential community parking lot, and that the golf course next to which her residential community was constructed now constitutes a nuisance. Pending before this Court are Defendants Century Golf Partners Management, LP and WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17) and Motion to File Amended Answer (ECF No. 19). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motions (ECF Nos. 17 & 19) are GRANTED and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.


This Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The Plaintiff, Doris Mitchell, was a resident of Colorado at the time of the filing of this lawsuit and now resides in Maryland.[2] Compl. ¶ 4. Defendant WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC ("Bay Hills") is a Delaware limited liability company and is the owner of the Bay Hills Golf Club in Arnold, Maryland. Id. ¶ 5. Defendant Century Golf Partners Management, LP ("Century Golf") is a Texas limited partnership that manages and operates Bay Hills Golf Club. Id. ¶ 6. The Club was built in 1968. Defs.' Mem., ECF No. 17-1 at 2.

At all times relevant to the events giving rise to this case, the Plaintiff lived at the St. Andrews Condominiums in Arnold, Maryland. Pl.'s Opp. at 22-23; Mitchell Dep. 18. In 1996, St. Andrews was built adjacent to the Bay Hills Golf Club, which had existed at its present location since its construction in 1968. Compl. ¶ 15; Am. Ans. ¶¶ 2, 5-6; Defs.' Opp. at 2. Mitchell lived in the basement of a condominium unit owned by her daughter and son in law, Joann and William Sims. ECF No. 17-1 at 2; Mitchell Dep. 13.

In the months and years prior to this incident, Mitchell, Mrs. Sims, and other St. Andrews residents had complained to Bay Hills and Century Golf personnel about errant shots from the 15th tee regularly entering the condominium parking lot. Compl. ¶ 17; Ans. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 20-1 at 11. Joann Sims testified that she first complained to the Defendants' employees in the year 2000. ECF No. 20-1 at 11; Sims Dep. 18-19. Sims wrote numerous letters over the years, including one in 2005 describing how the Plaintiff had been hit in the face with a ball. ECF No. 20-1 at 11; Sims Dep. 30-33. Golf balls entered the parking lot on a weekly or daily basis, and the Simses' condominium sustained damage, including broken windows. Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 20-1 at 11, 23; Mitchell Dep. 21-22. The complaints by St. Andrews residents were the subject of an Internet article on March 21, 2011. ECF No. 20-5. The Defendants acknowledged that they were aware that golf balls from the 15th tee entered St. Andrews property but stated that they could not rectify the issue because of costs. Id.

On or about May 8, 2011, Mitchell was unloading a van in the St. Andrews parking lot when a golf ball struck her leg. Compl. ¶ 15. The ball that struck her was driven by an unknown golfer from the elevated tee box of the 15th hole at Bay Hills, approximately 182 yards away. Id. ; Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 20-1 at 14. Mitchell sustained a wound to her leg that required hospital treatment. Compl. ¶ 16. Subsequently, the wound did not heal properly and she required months of extensive additional care. Id. Although the wound to Mitchell's leg eventually improved, she alleges that she suffers permanent effects from the injury. Id.

Mitchell filed her Complaint in this Court. ECF No. 1. The Defendants moved for leave to file an Amended Answer, and for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 17, 19.


I. Defendants' Motion to Amend

As an initial matter, this Court addresses the Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Amended Answer. Specifically, the Defendants wish to amend their Answer to include the argument that all of the Plaintiff's claims are barred by Maryland's statute of repose. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-108. That statute generally provides that no cause of action accrues from an allegedly unsafe condition of real property occurring more than twenty years after the date of the improvement to said real property.

A. Waiver

The Plaintiff argues that the Defendants have waived the defense based on the statute of repose. She asserts that the statute of repose defense is an affirmative defense that was required to be pled in the Defendants' Answer pursuant to Rule 8(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, as recently noted by Judge Chasanow of this Court, "the prevailing rule is that a statute of repose is not an affirmative defense that needs to be pleaded in a defendant's answer to avoid waiver." Chang-Williams v. United States, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, No. DKC-10-0783, 2013 WL 4454597, at *19 n.9 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2013) (collecting cases). Moreover, despite the Plaintiff's arguments to the contrary, there is no unfair surprise or ...

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