United States District Court, D. Maryland
NATALIE N. SAYLES, Plaintiff,
LEVI STRAUSS & Co., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court are Defendant Levi Strauss Co.'s motion
for summary judgment, ECF Nos. 22 & 23, and Plaintiff
Natalie N. Sayles' opposition and motion for discovery
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), ECF No. 24. 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, Plaintiff's motion for discovery,
ECF No. 24, is DENIED and Levi Strauss's motion for
summary judgment, ECF Nos. 22 & 23, is GRANTED.
September 29, 2013, Plaintiff Natalie N. Sayles
(“Sayles”) was shopping in the Men's
Department at the Marlow Heights store of Defendant
Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc. (“Macy's”),
located at 4101 Branch Avenue, Temple Hills, Maryland. ECF
No. 2 at ¶ 19. As Sayles headed toward a display table
holding the sales items of Defendant Levi Strauss & Co
(“Levi Strauss”), an acrylic display sign
weighing approximately thirty pounds fell off the display
table and onto Sayles' foot. Id. at ¶ 7.
Sayles was transported to the District of Columbia
Veteran's Hospital for treatment. Id. at ¶
9. Sayles avers that she suffered serious and potentially
permanent injuries to her left foot and leg from this
incident. Id. at ¶ 31.
12, 2017, Sayles filed suit against Defendants Levi Strauss
& Co. and Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc. alleging that
Defendants negligently or recklessly maintained the premises,
injuring Sayles' as a result. On December 22, 2017, Levi
Strauss moved for summary judgment, asserting that it did not
maintain control over the allegedly defective display, and
thus, could not be held liable for Sayles' injuries. ECF
Nos. 22 & 23. Defendant Macy's filed an affidavit
supporting Levis Strauss' motion. ECF No. 23-3. The same
day, Sayles opposed the motion and, pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 56(d), asserted that additional discovery
was necessary before Levi Strauss' motion could be
adjudicated. ECF Nos. 24 & 24-1.
Standard of Review
judgment may be entered only if there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact and the moving party 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); Emmett
v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). Summary
judgment is inappropriate if any material factual issue
“may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC v. Wash. Sports
Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001).
party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment ‘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. Balt. Ravens Football
Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.2003) (quoting
former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla of proof
. . . will not suffice to prevent summary judgment.”
Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003).
sole theory of liability is that Defendants' breached the
duty of care to her as a business invitee through the
reckless or negligent maintenance of “the premises,
” thereby causing her injury. See generally
ECF No. 2. Levi Strauss argues, as well as submits evidence
in support, that the offending display was “not
maintained in any fashion by Levi's, ” and that
Macy's was solely “responsible for maintaining its
premises, including the area of th[e] display sign.”
ECF Nos. 23-2 & 23-3. Accordingly, Levi Strauss contends
that no genuine disputed fact exists as to its liability
because Levi Strauss owed no duty of care to Sayles.
Id.; see generally ECF Nos. 23 & 25.
opposition, Sayles asserts that under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(d), she is entitled to further discovery on Levi
Strauss' liability. Rule 56(d) permits the Court to deny
summary judgment or delay ruling until discovery has occurred
if the “non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration
that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts
essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(d). Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate when
“the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable
discovery.” E .I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011).
However, requests under Rule 56(d) “cannot simply
demand discovery for the sake of discovery, ”
Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 807
F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D. Md. 2011), and the request may be
denied if “the additional evidence sought for discovery
would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material
fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Ingle
ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 195
(4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Poindexter v. Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp., No.
14-1858, 2015 WL 4081208, at *3 (4th Cir. July 7, 2015)
(upholding district court's summary judgment ruling
despite the plaintiff's Rule 56(d) request because she
“has not explained ... how the information [sought in
discovery] could possibly create a genuine issue of material
fact sufficient for her to survive summary judgment, or
otherwise affect the court's analysis”).
short, Sayles simply asks that she be granted
“discovery for the sake of discovery.”
Hamilton, 807 F.Supp.2d at 342. Sayles asserts that
she needs to depose a Levi Strauss corporate representative
to “test the truth of the averments made in the
affidavits . . . so that the credibility (or lack thereof) is
property [sic] considered.” ECF No. 24-2 at ¶ 7.
But Sayles does not give any “specific reason”
for discovery on this point, which is particularly necessary
where, as here, defendant Macy's agrees that it bears
sole responsibility for maintaining the premises.
See ECF Nos. 23-2 & 23-3; accord Mercer v.
Arc of Prince George's Cnty., 532 Fed.Appx. 392, 400
(4th Cir. 2013) (affirming grant of summary judgment because
plaintiff's “minimal effort [to detail why
discovery was necessary] is insufficient to compel denial of
the [defendant's] summary judgment motion”);
Sampson v. United States, No. DKC-15-0243, 2015 WL
5008780, at *4 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2015); Fierce v.
Burwell, No. RWT-13-3549, 2015 WL 1505651, at *8 (D. Md.
Mar. 31, 2015).
also contends that discovery is necessary to “test what
responsibilities [Levi Strauss] undertook with respect to its
relationship with Defendant Macy's” and Levi
Strauss' respective “indemnity obligations”
to Macy's. See ECF No. 24-2. Sayles, however,
has brought solely negligence claims. Any discovery based on
speculation that Macy's could perhaps seek
contribution or indemnification from Levi Strauss is not
relevant to Sayles' negligence action. See ECF
Nos. 23-3 & 25 at 3-5. This distinction is critical
because Rule 56(d) does not authorize “fishing
expeditions” on matters not relevant to Plaintiff's
claims. See Sampson, 2015 WL 5008780, at *4 (quoting
Morrow v. Farrell, 187 F.Supp.2d 548, 551
(D.Md.2002), aff'd, 50 Fed.Appx. 179 (4th Cir.
2002)). Plaintiff's request for discovery under Rule
56(d) must be denied.
it is undisputed that Levi Strauss had no duty to maintain
the premises where Sayles was injured. Plaintiff cannot
sustain her negligence claim against Levi Strauss, and
summary judgment in Levi Strauss' favor must be granted.
Accordingly, it is this 11th day of ...