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Uribe v. Aaron's, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 26, 2014

JESSICA URIBE, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
AARON'S, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

This is a diversity action brought by Plaintiffs Jessica Uribe and Ann Uribe (collectively, "Plaintiffs") against Aaron's, Inc. ("Defendant") arising from Plaintiffs' purchase of several mattresses from Defendant's store that were allegedly infested with bedbugs. This Memorandum and Order addresses Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23). I find that a hearing is unnecessary in this case. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant is in the business of selling and leasing furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances, and accessories for residential customers. ECF No. 2 at ¶ 3. On September 28, 2011, Plaintiffs purchased three mattresses from Defendant's store that were delivered to Plaintiffs' home several weeks later. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 7. On November 6, 2011, shortly after Plaintiffs noticed that all three mattresses were allegedly infested with bedbugs, Plaintiff Jessica Uribe called Defendant to speak with a manager. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 9. Plaintiffs claim the manager denied the possibility of bedbugs and told Plaintiff Jessica Uribe that nothing could be done. Id. at ¶ 9. That same day, Plaintiff Jessica Uribe purportedly took her son to the hospital after noticing he had bites on his skin from the bedbug infestation. Id. at ¶ 12. Around the same time, Plaintiff Ann Uribe also claims to have noticed bites on her skin from the bedbug infestation. Id. at ¶ 13.

As a result of the infestation, Plaintiffs contend they were forced to buy bed covers and insect spray to treat the infested mattresses. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiffs also claim they hired an exterminator who allegedly found evidence of bedbugs and recommended treating the furniture. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiffs contend that the bedbug infestation spread to their couch as well. Id. at ¶ 18. Ultimately, Plaintiffs claim they were forced to remove the mattresses from their home and store them in an off-site location. Id. at ¶ 14. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant has refused to remove the infested items, despite Plaintiffs' repeated requests. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiffs contend that as a result of Defendant's failure to promptly verify and eradicate the bedbugs, Plaintiffs have been deprived of the normal use and enjoyment of their home. Id. at ¶ 26. Additionally, Plaintiffs contend that they moved to a new residence, in part, because of the bedbug infestation. Id. at ¶ 27.

Plaintiffs therefore filed this action claiming that Defendant was negligent by (i) failing to maintain and sell clean and usable furniture; (ii) failing to inspect the mattresses after Plaintiffs called Defendant to give notice of the bedbugs; (iii) failing to take any remedial action to eradicate the bedbugs or to correct the situation; (iv) failing to train critical staff on how to identify the signs of bedbug infestations; and (v) failing to retain a properly licensed and trained pest control professional. Id. at ¶ 37. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting the quality of the mattresses at the time of purchase. Id. at ¶¶ 39-47. Defendant has moved for summary judgment. See ECF No. 23.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is properly granted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Meson v. GATX Tech. Servs. Corp., 507 F.3d 803, 806 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.56(c)). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. To satisfy this burden, the non-moving party "must produce competent evidence on each element of his or her claim." Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). Although the Court "must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, " that party "may not create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation, or building one inference upon another." Id .; see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Runnenbaum v. NationsBank, 123 F.3d 156, 163 (4th Cir. 1997). Indeed, the existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251. Instead, the admissible evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant's summary judgment motion hinges on the timeliness of Plaintiffs' responses to Defendant's Requests for Admissions ("Requests"). Defendant served the Requests on Plaintiffs on May 16, 2014. See ECF No. 23-1 at 4. Plaintiffs' responses were originally due on June 16, 2014. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3). The parties, however, agreed to extend Plaintiffs' deadline until July 11, 2014. See ECF No. 23-1 at 2. Despite this extension, Plaintiffs failed to meet the new deadline ( id. at 4); instead, they responded over a month later on August 19, 2014 (several weeks after Defendant filed its motion for summary judgment). See ECF No. 26 at 2. As a result of Plaintiffs' delay, Defendant argues that the Court should accept, as true, the facts contained in Defendant's Requests pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3), which provides that "[a] matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3); see also ECF No. 23-1 at 4-6. Specifically, Defendant contends that that the following facts have been admitted as a result of Plaintiffs' failure to timely respond to Defendant's Requests:

• No entomologist confirmed the presence of bedbugs in Plaintiffs' home after they were allegedly discovered on November 6, 2011.
• Plaintiffs did not have the subject home professionally treated for the bedbugs that are the subject of their Complaint.
• Plaintiffs did not notify Defendant's that the mattresses were infested with bedbugs until April 2012.
• Plaintiffs refused to allow Defendant's to inspect the subject home for the presence of bedbugs ...

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