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King v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 26, 2016

JOYCE M. KING, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THEODORE D. CHUANG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joyce M. King slipped and fell on a greasy substance while riding an escalator at the Capitol Heights Metro Station in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Presently pending are a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion to Strike, both filed by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMA TA"). The Motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary to resolve them. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Strike is DENIED, and the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are either undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

I. Escalators at the Capitol Heights Metro Station

The Capitol Heights Metro Station has three levels, listed as follows in descending order: the street level; the mezzanine level, where passengers purchase fare cards; and the platform level, where the trains run. There are a total of five escalators in the station. Escalators One and Two ascend from the mezzanine level to the street level. Escalator Three descends from the street level to the mezzanine level. Escalators Four and Five run between the mezzanine and platform levels.

At 4:42 a.m. on December 5, 2013, the day of the accident, Capitol Heights Station Manager Paul Hill arrived at work. As usual, Hill first went to the kiosk on the mezzanine level to call Central Control and the Division Clerk and let them know he was on duty. He then proceeded to conduct a station check to prepare the station for opening. The steps to be followed during a station check are set forth in WMATA standard operating procedures on which Hill had been trained.

As part of the station check, Hill first looked over the escalator logbook to see if any of the escalators had a problem the night before or should not be turned on. If something was wrong with an escalator, the logbook would indicate which one and the reason. That day, the logbook indicated that all escalators were in service. Hill then descended to the platform level to turn on Escalators Four and Five. After walking the length of the platform to check the train tracks for debris, Hill walked back up one of the escalators to the mezzanine level. While walking up the escalator, Hill followed the standard operating procedure, which required him to determine if anything is out of the ordinary, such as misaligned steps, missing comb teeth, a loose handrail, or an item dropped on the escalator. After conducting other checks on the mezzanine level, Hill turned on the remaining escalators and waiked up Escalators One and Two and down Escalator Three, performing the same safety check. Finally, he returned to the kiosk, turned on the elevator, and opened the station sometime before 5:02 a.m.

From about 6:00 to 9:30 a.m., during rush hour, Hill walked around the mezzanine level to be available to assist passengers. At one point, Hill went on a break and left the station... He returned at 9:00 a.m. by descending Escalator Three.

The station manager who relieved Hill during his break performed a station check at 8:30 a.m. In her Station Condition Checklist, the second station manager crossed off a box indicating that the escalators were in good condition. Under the column entitled "List of Equipment/Problem/Failure of Ticket Number, " she left the space next to "escalators" blank. Def.'s Reply PI.'s Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5, Station Condition Checklist.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon, Hill generally stayed in the kiosk, but he performed periodic checks, approximately hourly, by walking the platform and station, focusing primarily on the mezzanine and platform levels.

II. The Accident

On December 5, 2013, King was scheduled to start work at her office in Washington, D.C. at 12:30 p.m. Sometime between 11:30 and 11:55 a.m., King's husband dropped her off at the Capitol Heights Metro Station's "Kiss and Ride" area on the street level. PI.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. ("PI.'s Opp'n"), King Dep. at 35. King then rode down Escalator Three toward the mezzanine level. When she got on the escalator, she noticed nothing unusual about the way it was operating. Part of the way down, King decided that she was going to walk the rest of the way. As she took a step with her right foot, her foot slipped and flew out from under her. She fell onto her left hip area. When she attempted to get up, her shoes kept sliding. She turned over to try to stand up, but to no avail; her feet continued to slip on a greasy, oily substance.

Near the bottom of the escalator, King was able to return to her feet. Holding onto the railing, she stepped off the escalator once she hit the metal landing plate. She noticed that on the landing plate there were many footprints of people's shoes in different sizes and shapes. She then walked over to the kiosk and told Hill that she had slipped on something oily, fell, and that her leg was "burning." Id at 51-56; Pl.'s Opp'n, Hill Dep. at 57, King then pulled up the side of her pants and realized that her leg ...


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