United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
HONORABLE GINA L. SIMMS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before this Court, by the parties' consent, are Motions
for Summary Judgment and Responses in Opposition thereto.
(ECF Nos. 29, 31, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44). Upon review of the
pleadings and the record, the Court finds that no hearing is
necessary. See L.R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, both Motions for Summary Judgment are DENIED.
following facts are undisputed. On the evening of February
15, 2015, Plaintiff Frantz Viergelia
(“Plaintiff”) boarded a public metro bus operated
by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority
(“WMATA”) on his way home from work. (Viergelia
Dep. 8:20-22, 9:1, 15:9-18). The weather that evening was
snowy, icy, or a combination of both, causing slick roadways.
(Id. 17:8-15; ECF No. 39 at 3; ECF No. 41 at 3). As
the bus approached University Boulevard and Lorain Avenue
around 1:00 in the morning, the bus driver, Mr. Wright, lost
control and began skidding downhill. (Wright Dep. 37:13-22,
38:1-2). The bus ultimately collided with Defendant Latoya
Gafar (“Gafar”)'s sedan, finally coming to a
halt in a Safeway parking lot. (Wright Dep. 45:12-21). At the
time of the collision, Gafar's sedan was facing the wrong
way and straddled two lanes, as Gafar had lost control of her
vehicle before the impact. (Id. 40:11-14, 44:6-14;
Gafar Dep. 16:19-22, 17:1-8). Plaintiff claims that he hit
his head on the back of the seat in front of him and hit his
left leg on a screw on the back of the seat in front of him.
(Viergelia Dep. 21:7-22, 22:1-5). He was later transported to
Holy Cross Hospital for treatment. (Id. 22:6-9).
Since then, Plaintiff has had neck pain, headaches, and nose
bleeds that he attributes to the accident. (Id.
filed his Complaint on March 18, 2016, alleging that he
suffered injuries as a result of Defendants WMATA and
Gafar's negligence. Id. Defendants filed their
Answers on March 18, 2016 and December 27, 2016,
respectively. (ECF Nos. 5, 22). This case was referred to me
for All Further Proceedings on November 17, 2017. WMATA filed
its Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 39). Gafar filed
her Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff
filed his Responses in Opposition thereto. (ECF Nos. 42, 43).
WMATA filed its Reply. (ECF No. 44). Defendant Gafar did not
file a Reply. Accordingly, the Motions pending before this
Court are ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review
for summary judgment shall be granted only if there are no
genuine issues as to any material fact, such that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden
of showing that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo
Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987)
(internal citation omitted). The burden can be satisfied
through the submission of discovery materials. Barwick v.
Celotex Corp., 736 F.2d 946, 958 (4th Cir. 1984). To
defeat motions for summary judgment, on the other hand, the
nonmoving party cannot simply cast “metaphysical
doubt” on the material facts, but rather must provide
specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
Court must construe the facts and documentary materials
submitted by the parties, including the credibility and
weight of particular evidence, in the light most favorable to
the party opposing the motions. Masson v. N.Y. Magazine,
Inc., 501 U.S. 495, 520 (1991) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)). A mere scintilla of
evidence is insufficient to create an issue of material fact.
See Barwick, 736 F.2d at 958-59 (citing
Seago, 42 F.R.D. at 632). Summary judgment is
inappropriate if any material factual issue “may
reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
establish a cause of action for negligence in Maryland, a
plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) defendant was under a
duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the defendant
breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff suffered actual loss or
injury; and (4) the loss or injury proximately resulted from
the defendant's breach of the duty. See Todd v. Mass.
Transit Admin., 373 Md. 149, 155 (2003) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). Negligence is a relative
term and must be decided on the facts of each particular
case; ordinarily, it is a question of fact to be determined
by the jury. See Fowler v. Smith, 240 Md. 240, 246
case, it is undisputed that the road conditions on the
relevant evening were slippery. Under Maryland law, skidding
of a vehicle by itself is not evidence of negligence; rather,
skidding may be evidence of negligence “if it appears
that it was caused by a failure to take reasonable precaution
to avoid [skidding] when the conditions at the time made such
a result probable in the absence of such precaution.”
Brumage v. Blubaugh, 204 Md. 144, 149 (1954)
(assessing skidding in light of poor weather conditions)
(internal quotation omitted). In addition, “[s]peed may
be evidence of negligence where it appears that under the
circumstances it was likely to endanger others who were in
the exercise of due care.” Id. Thus, when a
jury is presented with evidence of skidding, it may evaluate
the “speed of the automobile prior to the skidding and
the care in handling it, particularly in the application of
the brakes . . . [to determine] whether or not there was an
exercise of due care.” York Motor Express Co. v.
State, 74 A.2d 12, 15 (Md. 1950).
WMATA's Motion for Summary Judgment
is a dispute as to whether WMATA breached its duty of
heightened care to Plaintiff through either the manner of
operating the bus in wintry conditions or the speed at which
the bus was traveling just prior to the accident.
claims that Mr. Wright was operating the bus “normally
under the weather conditions.” (ECF No. 39 at 7). But
Plaintiff claims that WMATA “failed in having the
systems in place to provide guidance to drivers in the
foreseeable event of snowy weather” and that Mr. Wright
“knew it was dangerous to drive and was negligent in
continuing to expose his passengers to the risks of the road
that evening” (ECF No. 42 at 4; see also
Wright Dep. 21-30 (explaining Mr. Wright's attempts to
contact WMATA after seeing multiple accidents on the road)).
Plaintiff also avers that Mr. Wright's failure to stop
and avoid hitting Gafar's vehicle was in itself
negligent, because ten seconds passed between the time
Gafar's vehicle stopped in front of the bus and the
collision, and Mr. Wright simply failed to keep a proper