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Schaefer v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 9, 2017

SHERYL LYNN SCHAEFER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending in this tort action is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant United States of America (ECF No. 27). 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, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On December 1, 2012, Plaintiffs Sheryl Lynn Schaefer (“Mrs. Schaefer”) and Thomas G. Schaefer (“Mr. Schaefer, ” and collectively, “Plaintiffs”) visited the Naval Air Station Patuxent River to attend a Christmas craft fair at the Drill Hall. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3. The weather was clear and sunny, and Mrs. Schaefer was wearing tennis shoes. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 20.

         While walking from the parking lot to the Drill Hall, Mrs. Schaefer followed “a couple feet” behind her husband in a single-file line on the sidewalk. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 21. Also on the sidewalk was a single-file line of individuals who were exiting the craft fair and walking parallel to the line of people whom the Plaintiffs were walking behind. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 21. The pedestrians were far enough apart from one another that no one was physically touching. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 22. Mrs. Schaefer was looking over her husband's left shoulder at those exiting the fair and walking slowly in an effort to not run into him. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 21. As Plaintiffs neared the Drill Hall, Mrs. Schaefer “stepped down and [she] felt something uneven, ” and “went down onto the sidewalk.” Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 22. Neither Mr. or Mrs. Schaefer had noticed anything unusual about the sidewalk before Mrs. Schaefer fell. Mrs. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-2 at 24.

         After Mrs. Schaefer's fall, Plaintiffs noticed that the concrete was cracked and misaligned. At its worst, the misaligned pieces created a lip with a depth of about one to one-and a-half inches, as depicted in the photos below.[2] Id.; Mr. Schaefer Dep., ECF No. 27-3 at 14. Defendant admits constructive knowledge of the sidewalk's condition. Willard Dep., ECF No. 29-1 at 5.

         (Image Omitted)

         ECF No. 27-5 at 1; ECF No. 27-4 at 2.

         Plaintiffs brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, on September 14, 2015 alleging that Defendant is liable for failing to repair or warn of the defective sidewalk which caused Mrs. Schaefer to fall. Mrs. Schaefer is claiming as damages her medical expenses, lost earnings, physical pain and mental anguish, and other economic and non-economic injury. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5. Plaintiffs also bring a claim of loss of consortium, alleging that the fall caused injury to their marital relationship including “loss of society, affection, assistance, companionship, and loss of sexual relations.” Id. In total, Plaintiffs claim $2, 000, 000 in damages.

         On November 30, 2016, Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that because the crack in the sidewalk did not present an unreasonable risk of injury and was obvious to everyone including Plaintiff, Defendant cannot be liable for Mrs. Schaefer's injuries. ECF No. 29. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is properly granted only where no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). If any material factual issue may be reasonably resolved in favor of either party, summary judgment is inappropriate. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 250. The moving party bears the burden of showing no genuine issue of disputed material fact, which may include demonstrating that the Plaintiff has failed to marshal sufficient evidence to sustain her burden on any essential element. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. A “mere scintilla” of proof is insufficient to defeat the motion. Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003). Conclusory statements devoid of evidentiary foundation also are not to be considered. Tasciyan v. Med. Numerics, 820 F.Supp.2d 664, 670 (D. Md. 2011). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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