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Reyen v. Jones Lang Lasalle Americas Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 7, 2016

DORITA REYEN
v.
JONES LANG LASALLE AMERICAS INC., ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM

          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Dorita Reyen, has filed a diversity action sounding in negligence against Jones Lang Lasalle Americas, Inc. (“Jones Lang”) and Megabus Northeast, LLC (“Megabus”). Her claims arise from injuries sustained when she “lost her balance and fell” on an escalator inside Union Station in Washington, D.C. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 14, ECF No. 1). Now pending are separate motions for summary judgment filed by Jones Lang and Megabus. (Jones Lang Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 19; Megabus Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 20). Ms. Reyen opposed them, (Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 26), and Jones Lang replied, (Jones Lang Reply, ECF No. 27). No oral argument is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant both motions for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Ms. Reyen has a disability that requires her to walk with a cane. (Jones Lang Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A, Reyen Dep. 84-85). On June 17, 2013, she purchased a bus ticket from Megabus in order to travel from her home near Syracuse, New York, to her sister's home in Virginia on July 9, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 7; Reyen Dep. 16). Because her itinerary required her to change buses several times, Ms. Reyen notified Megabus of her disability in advance and advised Megabus that she would need help getting on and off buses and when removing her luggage from bus storage compartments. (Reyen Dep. 84, 129-30, 148-49). In response, Megabus indicated she would receive assistance getting from one bus to the next. (Id. 147-50).

         On its way to Virginia, the bus on which Ms. Reyen traveled performed a scheduled stop at Union Station. (Id. 82-83). All passengers continuing to Virginia had to disembark, wait about five hours, and then board a different bus to continue the journey. (Id.). Once the bus parked on the Union Station bus deck, [1] the plaintiff disembarked, retrieved her luggage, and headed into Union Station to pass the time during the layover. (Id. 90-91). Ms. Reyen knew that, because she “had trouble even walking on flat floor, ” escalators were “dangerous” for her because they could cause her to fall and harm herself. (Id. 87-89). She thus sought to avoid them. After alighting on the bus deck, Ms. Reyen looked for an elevator to transport her down into Union Station but was unable to find one. (Id. 92, 94, 141, 156). For that reason, she felt forced to use an escalator to descend one level to the mezzanine level, (see id. 88, 145), although Ms. Reyen appears unsure if an elevator in fact existed that could have taken her into Union Station, (see Id. 94, 141, 144-46).

         Ms. Reyen fared no better within Union Station. After taking an escalator down to the mezzanine level (id. 93), she could not locate an elevator to take her down to the main level. Ms. Reyen does not dispute that several such elevators exist now. (Id. 105-06, 160; Jones Lang Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B, Polhemus Dep. ¶¶ 18-28, ECF No. 19-2). But on the day in question, the plaintiff claims an elevator between the mezzanine and main levels either did not exist, (Reyen Dep. 96, 98-99, 106, 144), or was not accessible, (see Id. 108-111). In the latter case, construction materials on the mezzanine level may have obscured her ability to see and/or access one particular elevator, she claims. (Id.). The “area” where this elevator is now located was “blocked off from public access” by a “wall of plywood” that she could not get past on the day she suffered harm. (Id.).[2] The plaintiff thus felt compelled to risk an escalator for a second time in order to descend to the main level. (Id. 111).

         Ms. Reyen located an elevator to take her down to the lower level and then back up to the main level. (Id. 103-105). On the main level, she again searched for an elevator to take her from the main level to the mezzanine level (from which she could access the bus deck), because she continued to believe one existed. (See Id. 157-58). Sadly, she could not locate elevators or elevator signs, (id. 113, 121), perhaps because of construction materials, (id. 111-12). Again, the plaintiff does not know if there was an elevator she could not locate. (Id. 144-46).

         Concluding she had no other choice, (id. 113), Ms. Reyen attempted to ride up an escalator from the main level to the mezzanine level. After taking one step on the escalator, unfortunately, she fell backwards, (id. 113), and sustained injuries, (see Id. 33-51).

         Ms. Reyen claims both defendants are liable in negligence. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-26). Jones Lang, the property manager of Union Station, (Jones Lang Mot. Summ. J., Mem. of Law 9, ECF No. 19-1; see Compl. ¶ 3), failed to ensure elevators were accessible, (Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. 9-11), and thus negligently failed to provide safe passage between the bus deck and Union Station facilities, she claims, (Compl. ¶¶ 21-23). Ms. Reyen also claims Jones Lang negligently failed to provide adequate elevator signage. (See Id. ¶¶ 12, 22; Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. 10).

         Ms. Reyen claims Megabus negligently failed to safely deliver her to her destination, even though it stated she would receive assistance. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-26; Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. 11-12). But Ms. Reyen did not expect Megabus to escort her into Union Station, (Reyen Dep. 130, 144-46); spend time with her in Union Station, (id. 147, 149); or help her navigate from Union Station facilities to the next bus, (id. 139-40, 150-51). Megabus also negligently failed to help her once it was clear Jones Lang may fail in its duties, she claims. (Compl. ¶ 26).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Ms. Reyen asserts, and the defendants do not dispute, that venue in this District is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391, because the defendants are Maryland residents under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). (Compl. ¶¶ 3-6). As a federal court sitting in diversity, this court applies Maryland choice-of-law rules, see Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941), which provide that the applicable substantive law is the law of the place of the harm, Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 521 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, this court thus applies the substantive law of the District of Columbia.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). “A dispute is genuine if ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court ...


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