United States District Court, D. Maryland
WILLIAM CONNELLY, Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the court and ready for resolution is Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (ECF No. 27). Defendant filed an Opposition (ECF No. 28) and Plaintiff filed a Reply (ECF No. 29). No hearing is deemed necessary and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011).
In the Memorandum Opinion of January 10, 2014 (ECF No. 25), this court found Plaintiff Isatu Mansaray ("Ms. Mansaray") was a passenger who fell shortly after she boarded a bus operated by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"). According to Ms. Mansaray the bus operator drove the bus in a rough or aggressive manner. The court found Ms. Mansaray was fully onboard the bus before the alleged sudden, forceful movements and thus Ms. Mansaray was in a place of safety. Relying primarily upon Retkowsky v. Baltimore Transit Company, 222 Md. 433, 160 A.2d 791 (1960), this court held Ms. Mansaray failed to present other evidence beyond her adjectival description of the movement of the bus. Based on Maryland law, the court found no genuine material factual dispute as to whether the movement of the bus was unusual or extraordinary. ECF No. 25 at 10. In the accompanying Order of January 10, 2014 (ECF No. 26), the court granted WMATA's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of WMATA and against Ms. Mansaray.
Ms. Mansaray moves to alter or amend the judgment entered in favor of WMATA on the grounds that this court committed a clear error of law and/or a manifest injustice. Ms. Mansaray contends this court improperly imposed a burden upon her inconsistent with her burden of proof, namely, the failure to proffer any evidence to explain the conduct of the bus driver. "[T]he Court's decision imposes upon the Plaintiff the burden of going beyond proving the extraordinary or unusual movements of the bus, but the added burden of explaining the bus operator's conduct. Therefore, to impose this burden on the Plaintiff is a clear error of law." ECF No. 27-1 at 3.
In its Opposition WMATA asserts Ms. Mansaray has misread the court's ruling. "In its ruling, the Court correctly discussed two ways Plaintiff could show that the movement of the bus was unusual or extraordinary... An explanation of the bus operator's conduct, if known, is not an extra burden, but an articulated example of how a Plaintiff in sudden start/stop cases can show that a definitive factual incident' existed, which would allow the Plaintiff to overcome WMATA's motion for summary judgment." ECF No. 28 at 2.
In her Reply Ms. Mansaray cites, for the first time, the case of Kaufman v. Baltimore Transit Company , quoting the following:
Ordinarily the only direct evidence of the cause of a jolt or movement, and of negligence vel non, would be testimony of the operator of the car. But plaintiffs are not required to prove their cases out of the lips of their adversaries, and only occasionally are able to do so. In the absence of such evidence, the results of the movement, upon the passenger in question or other passengers or both, may show the movement to have been unusually violent or sudden as to justify an inference of negligence.
197 Md. 141 , 146, 78 A.2d 464, 467 (1951) (citation omitted); ECF No. 29 at 3.
However, the Kaufman court continues its discussion by stating,
When a seated passenger is injured by being hurled from his seat against the seat in front of him, it may be inferred that a sudden stop was due to negligence of the operator, in the absence of other circumstances, not including such negligence, which necessitated the stop. Such an inference must be drawn from facts, not from adjectives or other words used by witnesses to characterize the movement, e.g., in the instant case, "terrific jolt", "very terrible - very severe jerk or jolt", "unusually hard jerk."
Id. (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
This court was not imposing an additional burden on Ms. Mansaray when it noted Ms. Mansaray had not proffered any evidence to explain the behavior of the bus driver. ECF No. 25 at 9. In the January 10, 2014 memorandum option this court found the only evidence Ms. Mansaray presented concerning the allegedly unusual movement of the bus was her adjectival description. Even before commenting on the absence of evidence concerning the bus operator's behavior, this court noted Ms. Mansaray had not presented and deposed any corroborating witness nor had offered any evidence that another passenger fell due to the sudden movement of the bus or was similarly injured due to the unexpected and forceful movement of the bus. Id. This court cited cases with different factual circumstances where there was evidence beyond the injured party's adjectival description about a sudden, unexpected or violent movement. This court found Ms. Mansaray did not present evidence beyond her adjectival description. Under Maryland law an adjectival description alone is not sufficient to establish negligence.
[T]here was no evidence offered by the appellee to show that the start of the bus as it departed Queenstown was unusual, abnormal or extraordinary. In this State, a passenger cannot make out a valid case of negligence, based on the alleged sudden start or stop of a bus, merely by adjectival description of the nature of the sudden start or stop, in the absence of some definite, factual incident thereof which makes ...