United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge
before this court is a motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendants Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp. and SUPERVALU INC.
(“Defendants”), [ECF No. 21], Plaintiff Penny
Lyons's (“Plaintiff's”) opposition, [ECF
No. 22], and Defendants' Reply, [ECF No. 23]. No oral
argument is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants'
motion will be GRANTED.
September 6, 2013 at approximately 10:00pm, Plaintiff,
Plaintiff's husband Alfred Lyons, Sr. (“Lyons,
Sr.”), and Plaintiff's son Alfred Lyons, Jr., were
shopping at Shoppers Food Warehouse (“Shoppers”)
at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore City. Penny Lyons Dep. at 31.
five minutes after entering the store, Plaintiff was pushing
a shopping cart when she made a left-turn down an aisle,
walked a few feet, and slipped and fell in a clear liquid
substance on the floor. Id. at 31, 33. Before falling,
Plaintiff did not see water on the floor, nor did anyone tell
her they saw water on the floor. Id. at 45, 46.
After falling, however, Plaintiff observed a trail of water
“coming from the freezer part” of the
aisle. Id. at 36, 37. Plaintiff did not
see any footprints or cart marks tracking water on the
floor. Id. at 37. Plaintiff did not see water
leaking from a nearby coffin cooler, she never inspected the
coffin cooler, and nobody told her the coffin cooler was
leaking. Id. at 45. Plaintiff does not know how the
water got on the floor, and she does not know how long it was
on the floor before she fell. Id. at 46. When
Plaintiff got up, her clothes were “really wet.”
Id. at 78. She saw “a wet-floor sign like down
where the beginning of the trail of the water was.”
Id. Plaintiff estimated that the wet-floor sign,
standing near the coffin cooler, was fourteen to twenty feet
from where she fell. Id. at 79. Plaintiff did not
know why the wet-floor sign had been placed there.
Id. Lyons, Sr. “believe[d] that the sign may
have been there for some time because of the trail of the
distance of the water.” Lyons, Sr. Dep. at 10.
is suing Defendants for negligence and is seeking $695, 000
in damages for the “severe pain and permanent
injuries” she suffered as a result of this incident.
Pl.'s Compl., [ECF No. 2, 2-4].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides 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). “By its very terms, this standard
provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact
exists where “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.”
Id. When reviewing a motion for summary judgment,
the court must take all facts and inferences in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
the party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden
of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material
fact, see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986), the party opposing summary judgment must
“do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express
Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th Cir. 1999). The non-movant
“‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003)
(alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e));
see also Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S.
144, 160 (1970). A court should enter summary judgment when a
party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
elements essential to a party's case, and on which the
party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.
the alleged tort and resulting injury occurred in Maryland,
the Court applies Maryland law. See Klaxon Co. v. Stentor
Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941);
Branhaven, LLC v. BeefTek, Inc., 965 F.Supp.2d 650,
664 (D. Md. 2013) (“When a claim is based on state law,
the choice of law rules are those of the state in which the
district court sits.”); Lab. Corp. of America v.
Hood, 911 A.2d 841, 845 (Md. 2006) (holding that, in a
tort action, Maryland applies the law of the state where the
Maryland law, “a proprietor of a store owes a duty to
his customers to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises
in reasonably safe condition, and he will be held liable for
injuries sustained by a customer in consequence of his
failure to do so.” Moulden v. Greenbelt Consumer
Services, Inc., 210 A.2d 724, 725 (Md. 1965). However,
the proprietor “is not an insurer of the safety of his
customers while they are on the premises and no presumption
of negligence on the part of the owner arises merely from a
showing that an injury was sustained in his store.”
Id.; Giant Food, Inc. v. Mitchell, 640 A.2d
1134, 1135 (Md. 1994); Rawls v. Hochschild, Kohn &
Co., 113 A.2d 405, 408 (Md. 1955). Consequently, to
establish a prima facie case of negligence,
Plaintiff must demonstrate that the proprietor “created
the dangerous condition or had actual or constructive
knowledge of its existence.” Lexington Market
Authority v. Zappala, 197 A.2d 147, 148 (Md. 1964);
Rawls, 113 A.2d at 408. Additionally, Plaintiff has
“the further responsibility of producing evidence that
the dangerous condition had existed for a sufficiently long
period of time for [Defendants or their] employees to correct
it or to warn [their] invitees.” Keene v.
Arlan's Department Store of Balt. Inc., 35 Md.App.
250, 258 (1977).
adequately establishes, and Defendants do not dispute, that
there was water on the floor prior to the incident.
See Penny Lyons Dep. at 36-37, 45-46 & 78;
Lyons, Sr. Dep. at 9-10. Having successfully established the
existence of a dangerous condition, Plaintiff argues that,
“Defendants had [actual] knowledge of the leaky
refrigeration unit … [as] demonstrated by the wet
floor sign near [said] unit and the trail of water.”
Pl.'s Opp., [ECF No. 22, 3-4]. While Plaintiff avers that
Defendants “were aware the refrigeration unit was
leaking water[, ]” id. at 5, this factual
claim is not supported in evidence. In her deposition,
Plaintiff denied observing water leaking from the
refrigeration unit, inspecting the refrigeration unit, or
being told by anyone that the refrigeration unit was leaking.
Penny Lyons Dep. at 45. Lyons, Sr. also cannot identify the
refrigeration unit as the source of the water. See
Lyons, Sr. Dep. at 9-10. Plaintiff's theory, then,
requires that an impermissible inference be drawn between the
refrigeration unit and the wet-floor sign nearby, see
Burwell v. Easton Memorial Hospital, 577 A.2d 394, 395
(Md.App. 1989) (limiting the inferences permitted in premise
liability cases to “‘reasonable
ones'”) (quoting Clea v. City of
Baltimore, 541 A.2d. 1202 (Md. 1988) (emphasis in
original)), despite Plaintiff conceding that she did not know
why the wet-floor sign had been placed in the aisle. Penny
Lyons Dep. at 79. The water could just as easily have come
from a drink spilled by a customer as a leaky cooler.
viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the
wet-floor sign “near the beginning of the trail of
water[, ]” Penny Lyons Dep. 78, indicates that
Defendants knew that there was water on the floor and put up
a wet-floor sign to warn customers. The question, then, becomes
whether Defendants nevertheless “failed to exercise
reasonable care to protect [Plaintiff] against the
danger.” Maans v. Giant of Maryland, L.L.C.,
871 A.2d 627, 631 (Md.App. 2005) (citations omitted). See
Rehn v. Westfield Am., , 837 A.2d 981, 984 (Md.App.
2003) (citations omitted) (“When another patron creates
the danger, the proprietor may be liable if ...