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Schneider v. Ed's Marine Superstore, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 17, 2015

ED’S MARINE SUPERSTORE, INC., et al., Defendants.


Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Angela Schneider filed this action against Defendants Ed’s Marine Superstore, Inc. (“Ed’s Marine”) and National Marine Manufacturers Association (“NMMA”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging that Defendants’ negligence caused Ms. Schneider to slip and fall while boarding an exhibition boat displayed by Ed’s Marine at the 2013 Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show. [ECF No. 1]. Now pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 24]. I have also reviewed Plaintiff’s Opposition and Defendants’ Reply thereto. [ECF Nos. 29, 31]. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’ Motion will be denied.

I. Background

On March 2, 2013, Ms. Schneider and her family (the “Schneiders”) attended the Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show (the “Boat Show”), a watercraft exhibition produced by NMMA and held at the Baltimore Convention Center (the “Convention Center”) in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 6. Defendant Ed’s Marine is a Virginia corporation that was exhibiting boats for sale at the Boat Show, including a Sea Hunt Victory 225LE model boat (the “Display Boat”)[1] that Boat Show attendees, including the Schneiders, were invited to “see and board.” Compl. ¶¶ 8–11; Pl. Opp. 4–5.

To assist attendees in boarding the Display Boat, Ed’s Marine temporarily installed a set of stairs (the “Boarding Stairs”) with an accompanying handrail leading up to a platform on the back left side of the Display Boat’s stern. See Pl. Opp. 8; Exh. E [Ergo. Exp. Assess. Rep.], p. 4; Defs. Mot., Exh. 5. According to Ms. Schneider’s ergonomics expert, in order to board the Display Boat from the platform, an attendee would have to step over a “large rise” onto a cushion, and then, “without any means of support or stabilization, ” step down approximately sixteen (16) inches onto the floor of the boat. Pl. Opp., Exh. E [Ergo. Exp. Assess. Rep.], p. 4. See also Defs. Mot., Exhs. 6, 9. Ed’s Marine claims that it inspected all of its exhibition boats, including the Display Boat, “prior to [the Boat Show’s] start on each day.” Pl. Opp. 5; Exh. D [Ed’s Marine’s Resp. to Pl.’s Interrog. No. 7].

At approximately 4:00 AM on the day in question, Ms. Schneider took a Percocet to alleviate the pain of a kidney stone, which had awoken her in the middle of the night. Defs. Mot. 2; Exh. 2 [Tr. of A. Schneider], pp. 20–21. Despite her condition, Ms. Schneider woke up around 8:30 AM feeling “fine, ” and the Schneiders left for the Boat Show later that day. See id., p. 24. As the Schneiders arrived at the Convention Center, Ms. Schneider observed snow flurries, and her husband recalls that it was a “slippery snowy day.” Id.; Exh. 3 [Tr. of M. Schneider], p. 59. Once inside the Convention Center, the Schneiders boarded several other exhibitors’ boats before arriving at the Ed’s Marine exhibit. Defs. Mot. 3. Ms. Schneider did not observe any employees or representatives of Ed’s Marine attending the exhibit, and she claims that at no time did anyone affiliated with Ed’s Marine address him or herself to Ms. Schneider. See Pl. Opp. 8; Defs. Mot., Exh. 2 [Tr. of A. Schneider], p. 35.

Ms. Schneider’s husband and son boarded the Display Boat first without incident. See Defs. Mot., Exh. 2 [Tr. of A. Schneider], p. 35; Exh. 7 [Tr. of D. Schneider], p. 19. Ms. Schneider then proceeded to climb the Boarding Stairs, and recalls accessing the Display Boat at the point marked with a number “1” on Exhibit 6, which identifies the stern platform. Defs. Mot. 5; Exh. 2 [Tr. of A. Schneider], p. 46; Exh. 6. In her deposition, Ms. Schneider described the events leading up to her injury as follows:

A: So I got up on the boat, and went to step down into the boat.
Q: Okay. So when you say you got up on the boat, can you be specific for me about the stairs to the boat, the physical boat itself?
A: There were stairs up to the boat. And from there, there was like a big area from the stairs to get over to the boat, like a wider step to get over.
Q: Was it a gap in air or was the stairs flush against the boat?
A: No, it wasn’t flush against. It wasn’t – there was a few inches between that and the boat. . . . But then I stepped over, onto the cushion, and then down into the boat. . . . So just as I did that, my husband – the man in front of my husband said watch it, things are slippery up here. I saw the man talking to my husband. And then my husband turned around and said to me be careful. As soon as he said that, I fell.
Q: Okay. So if I’m understanding you correctly, you were inside the boat, stepping from the back cushion seat to the floor of the boat when you fell?
A: Okay. So I get up – I’m trying to remember. . . I get up onto the boat, took a big gap over. So I’m trying to remember if my foot slipped while up on that cushion, or actually when I hit the bottom. Which, when I got up onto the cushion, when my husband turned around, he said be careful because there was something slippery all over the cushion. Then – I can’t remember if my foot actually slipped off of the cushion into the boat. Because all I remember is once it slipped, there was nothing for me to grab onto.
* * *
Q: So do you recall that you were standing upright on the cushions of the back seat of the boat when you observed your husband and this gentleman conversing? Or were you still moving at that point in time?
A: I can’t recall. I don’t know if I was moving or standing still.

Defs. Mot., Exh. 2 [Tr. of A. Schneider], pp. 36–37. Later during her deposition, Ms. Schneider described the moments ...

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