United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this tort action is a
motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant United States
of America (the “United States”). (ECF No. 41).
The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules,
no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the
following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be
March 4, 2012, Plaintiff Sharon Sampson
(“Plaintiff”) was walking with John Ford from a
Popeye's restaurant to the New Carrollton Metro station
when she tripped and fell on the sidewalk at the corner of
Harkins Road and Ellin Road in Lanham, Maryland. (ECF No.
41-2, at 9-10). The United States owns the property at the
corner where Plaintiff fell, and the Internal Revenue Service
is the tenant. (ECF No. 41-4, at 6). Plaintiff claims that
she tripped over a lip between sidewalk panels adjacent to
the cover of a utility box. (ECF No. 41-2, at 9).
February 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed an administrative claim
for damages with the United States General Services
Administration, alleging that the fall caused various bodily
injuries and other damages. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 9-10). The
General Services Administration has neither accepted nor
rejected the claim. (Id. ¶ 4). On January 28,
2015, Plaintiff filed the instant suit for negligence against
the United States and Verizon Enterprise Solutions, LLC
(“Verizon”), which Plaintiff believed owned and
maintained the utility box. (ECF No. 1). Verizon submitted
affidavit evidence that it did not own or operate the utility
box in question, and its motion for summary judgment was
granted on August 20, 2015. (ECF Nos. 8; 21; 22). Plaintiff
and the United States proceeded to discovery, and the United
States filed the instant motion for summary judgment on
September 26, 2016. (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff responded on
October 13, and the United States replied on October 31. (ECF
Nos. 42; 43).
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there
exists no genuine dispute 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);
Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th
Cir. 2008). A dispute about a material fact is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. In undertaking this inquiry, a
court must view the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom “in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting
United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655
(1962)); see also EEOC v. Navy Fed. Credit Union,
424 F.3d 397, 405 (4th Cir. 2005), but a
“party cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact
through mere speculation or compilation of inferences,
” Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d 373, 375
(D.Md. 2001) (citation omitted).
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party
generally bears the burden of showing that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact. No genuine dispute
of material fact exists, however, if the nonmoving party
fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of
her case as to which she would have the burden of proof.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Therefore, on those
issues on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof,
it is her responsibility to confront the summary judgment
motion with an “affidavit or other evidentiary
showing” demonstrating that there is a genuine issue
for trial. See Ross v. Early, 899 F.Supp.2d 415, 420
(D.Md. 2012), aff'd, 746 F.3d 546
(4th Cir. 2014).
brings her claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq.
(ECF No. 1 ¶ 1). “The [FTCA] requires the
government's liability to be determined ‘in
accordance with the law of the place where the act or
omission occurred.'” United States v. St. Louis
Univ., 336 F.3d 294, 300 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1)). Because the United
States' alleged failure to maintain the sidewalk occurred
in Maryland, Maryland law applies.
establish a prima facie case for negligence under
Maryland law, a plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed
a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the
defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff suffered an
injury; and (4) the defendant's breach was the proximate
cause of the injury. See Rosenblatt v. Exxon Co.,
U.S.A., 335 Md. 58, 76 (1994). The United States argues
that it is entitled to summary judgment because (1) Plaintiff
fell on a portion of the sidewalk that was a public way for
which the municipality is responsible; (2) if Plaintiff was
on a portion of the sidewalk for which the United States is
responsible, she was a trespasser or a bare licensee to whom
only a minimal duty was owed; or (3) the defect in the
sidewalk over which Plaintiff tripped was open and obvious to
her. (ECF No. 41-1, at 8-11).
Duty to Maintain Public Ways
United States first argues that it had no duty to protect
Plaintiff because she fell on a public way maintained by
Prince George's County, Maryland (the
“County”). (ECF No. 41-1, at 9). Municipalities
have a duty to keep public ways, both streets and sidewalks,
in a safe condition for public travel. Bagheri v.
Montgomery Cty., Md., 180 Md.App. 93, 98-99 (2008)
(citing Mayor of Balt. v. Eagers, 167 Md. 128
(1934)). When a property abuts a public sidewalk that the
owner has not constructed, the duty to maintain it rests with
the municipality and not the abutting owner. Leonard v.
Lee, 191 Md. 426, 430-31 (1948); see also Weisner v.
Mayor of Rockville, 245 ...