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Motley v. Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 20, 2017

CECIL F. MOTLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
HOST HOTELS & RESORTS, INC. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 79) filed by Defendants Host Hotel & Resorts, Inc. and Host Hotel & Resorts of Virginia, LP (“Defendants” or “Host”), Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint (ECF No. 80), and Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery (ECF No. 84). The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted and Plaintiff's motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed. On July 22, 2013, Plaintiff Cecil Motley (“Motley”) and his wife were staying at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel located in Arlington, Virginia. During their stay, Motley fell while taking a shower and was injured. See Amended Complaint, ECF No. 8 at 2; Dep. of Cecil Morley, ECF No. 79-6 at 2. Plaintiff alleges that he fell because the bathtub was too slippery and not properly equipped with anti-slip strips or a rubberized mat. ECF No. 8 at 2. Apart from the Motley's description of the tub, however, no physical or other evidence exists regarding the tub surface because all of the Key Bridge Marriott hotel bathrooms, including the tubs, were refurbished and replaced after July 22, 2013 and before Motley filed suit. See Plaintiff's Expert Report of Lawrence Dinoff, ECF No. 79-5 at 1.

         Ironically, however, the condition of the bathtub is of secondary importance to the survival of Plaintiff's suit. This is because at the time of the incident, no evidence exists that the named Defendants owned or controlled the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in any respect. Defendants' Manager of Litigation and Compliance, Kathleen T. Malloy, provides in a sworn affidavit that “as of the date of Mr. Motley's fall at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel, neither Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. nor Host Hotels & Resorts of Virginia LP, owned or managed the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel.” ECF No. 79-4 at 2. Malloy further affirms that “Defendants did not have anything to do with the condition of the bathtub in which Mr. Motley fell; the Defendants did not inspect or maintain the bathtub; the Defendants did not employ or control the actions of anybody involved in the condition or cleaning of the bathtub where Mr. Motley fell . . . .” Id.

         Plaintiff provides only a single SEC filing for Defendants which describes Defendants' corporate structure as Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) with a consolidated hotel portfolio “as of February 20, 2015.” ECF No. 85-1 at 1. As such, Plaintiff's evidence regarding Defendants' ownership of Key Bridge Marriott Hotel because it is part of Defendants' consolidated hotel portfolio is limited and pertinent only as of February 20, 2015.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule 56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury to render a verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion, then a genuine dispute of material fact is presented and summary judgment should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [opposing party's] position” is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252. The facts themselves, and the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008), who may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading but instead must, by affidavit or other evidentiary showing, set out specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         III. ANALYSIS

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that both parties believe Maryland law applies. Both parties are incorrect. Although Maryland is the forum state, and Maryland's choice-of-law rules apply, Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941); see also Rawl's Auto Auction Sales, Inc. v. Dick Herriman Ford, Inc., 690 F.2d 422, 426 (4th Cir. 1982), Maryland follows the principles of lex loci delicti in determining choice of law, Great American Ins. v. Nextday Network Hardware Corp., 73 F.Supp.3d 636, 640 (D. Md. 2014). That is, in tort actions, Maryland courts apply the law of the state in which the last event of the tort in question had taken place. Id. Here, Motley sustained the injuries at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel located in Virginia. Thus, Virginia law applies. See Harvard v. Perdue Farms, Inc., 403 F.Supp.2d 462, 467 (D. Md. 2005) (applying Virginia law where accident out of which the claim arises took place). That said, the Court notes that the outcome would be the same under either Maryland or Virginia law.

         A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         1. Defendants Did Not Own or Control Premises

         Defendants' principal argument is that they cannot be held liable for any possible negligence because they neither owned nor controlled the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel as of July 22, 2013. Defendants are correct. It is most basic that in premises liability cases, an entity with no involvement in the premises does not assume any duty of reasonable care or safekeeping to its invitees. See, e.g., Restatement (Third) Torts, § 51 (General Duty of Land Possessors) (setting forth circumstances under which “a land possessor owes a duty of reasonable care to entrants on the land”); Colonial Stores, Inc. v. Pulley, 203 Va. 535, 537 (1962) (operator of store owes duty of ordinary care against Plaintiff invitee); cf. Kreisler v. Goldberg, 478 F.3d 209, 213 (4th Cir. 2007) (holding judgment against subsidiary does not render the parent corporation a “real party defendant”); DiFederico v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., No. RWT 11-CV-1508, 130 F.Supp.3d 986, 992 (D. Md. Sept. 18, 2015) (franchisor only liable for injuries sustained at hotel where franchisor “exercises direct control over a particular activity causing injury.”). Put differently, where the defendant exercises no control over the premises, it cannot be said to assume liability for injuries on the premises. Stenlund v. Marriott International, Inc., 172 F.Supp.3d 874, 884 (D. Md. 2016) (“the key element of control . . . must exist in respect to the very thing from which the injury arose.” (quoting Schramm v. Foster, 341 F.Supp.2d 536, 546 (D. Md. 2004)); Murphy v. Holiday Inns., Inc., 216 Va. 490, 493 (1975) (“[I]n determining whether a [franchise] contract establishes an agency relationship, the critical test is the nature and extent of the control agreed upon.”).

         Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, there is simply no evidence that Defendants had any relationship with the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel at the time that Motley was injured in July 2013. Defendants provide sworn, uncontradicted and uncontroverted testimony via affidavit that they did not own or control Key Bridge Marriott Hotel as of July 22, 2013, or participate in any way in the installation, maintenance, or upkeep of the hotel bathrooms. See Aff. of Kathleen Malloy, ECF No. 79-4 at 2. That the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel became part of Defendants' consolidated hotel portfolio at some time prior to February 20, 2015 does not upset this analysis. Even if this evidence is construed most favorably to Plaintiff, and the Court infers that the Hotel was part of the Defendants' consolidated REIT portfolio even as early as July 2013, that by itself does not demonstrate the kind of interest or ...


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