United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Defendant Moran Foods, LLC's
(“Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Motion”) (ECF No. 22) requesting summary
judgment be entered against Plaintiff Kim Daniel
(“Plaintiff”). The Court has reviewed Defendant's
Motion, related memoranda, and the applicable law. No.
hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For
the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES Defendant's Motion.
August 1, 2015, Plaintiff entered one of Defendant's
Save-A-Lot establishments to purchase groceries. Daniel Dep.
35:12-19. Plaintiff testified that after spending only five
minutes in the store, she approached the dairy display and
slipped and fell in the aisle. Daniel Dep. 32:12-21; 35:9-12.
The entire sequence of events involving this incident was
recorded by surveillance video, the relevant sections of
which were provided to the Court as still-frame photographs,
which showed that Plaintiff slipped and fell on a puddle of
milk which was spilled by another customer approximately one
minute prior to Plaintiff's fall. ECF Nos. 22-3, 22-4,
22-5, 22-6 and 22-7. The photographs also show that within
that one minute timeframe, one of Defendant's employees
was notified of the spill, collected and disposed of the
spilled milk carton in a back room of the store, and came out
of the back room with a bucket, mop and wet floor sign,
before assisting Plaintiff. See ECF No. 22-3, 22-4,
22-5, 22-6, and 22-7; see also Def.'s Mot. 3;
Pl.'s Opp'n 4-5.
September 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant
alleging two counts: first, a claim of negligence by
Defendant in failing to safely maintain its premises, and
second, a claim of negligent hiring, training, and
supervision. Pl.'s Compl. 6.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[t]he 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). A dispute is deemed genuine only if the
“evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and a fact is deemed
material only if it “might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Supreme Court
has explained that the burden of proof lies with the movant
to identify “those portions of ‘the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the
non-moving party to show an absence of evidence in the record
as to an essential element of the claim or to present
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Id. at 324. A court reviewing a
motion for summary judgment must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must prove four elements:
(1) that the defendant owed a duty to protect the plaintiff
from injury; (2) that the defendant breached the duty; (3)
that the plaintiff suffered damages; and (4) that the
plaintiff's damages proximately resulted from the
defendant's breach. Hall v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit
Auth., 679 F.Supp.2d 629, 632 (D. Md. 2010) (citations
omitted). “Negligence means doing something a person
using reasonable care would not do, or not doing something a
person using reasonable care would do.” Oliver v.
Maxway Stores, No. WGC-12-3033, 2013 WL 6091844, at *3
(D. Md. Nov. 2013) (citing Maryland Civil Pattern Jury
Instruction 19:1). Under Maryland law, a property owner
“owes a certain duty to a person who comes in contact
with the property. The extent of this duty depends upon the
person's status while on the property.”
Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co. v. Flippo, 348 Md.
680, 688 (1998) (citing to BG&E v. Lane, 338 Md.
34, 44 (1995)). Maryland law recognizes four categories of
individuals: (1) an invitee, (2) a licensee by invitation,
(3) a bare licensee and (4) a trespasser. Id.
“An invitee is a person on the property for a purpose
related to the possessor's business.” Id.
that Plaintiff here was in Defendant's establishment for
the purpose of purchasing groceries, it is clear that
Plaintiff was an invitee. Accordingly, Defendant had a duty
to “warn [Plaintiff] of known hidden dangers, a duty to
inspect, and a duty to take reasonable precautions against
foreseeable dangers.” Tennant v. Shoppers Food
Warehouse Md. Corp., 693 A.2d 370, 374 (Md. Ct. Spec.
App. 1997). However, the duty that a storekeeper owes to its
customers is not unlimited. Indeed, “storekeepers are
not insurers of their customers' safety, and no
presumption of negligence arises merely because an injury was
sustained on a storekeeper's premises.” Giant
Food, Inc. v. Mitchell, 334 Md. 633, 636 (1994).
“Rather, the evidence ‘must show not only that a
dangerous condition existed, but also that the proprietor had
actual or constructive knowledge of it, and that knowledge
was gained in sufficient time to give the [proprietor] the
opportunity to remove [the hazard] or to warn the
invitee.'” Linn v. Target Corp.,
Civ. No. JKB-14-2159, 2015 WL 6690247, at *4 (D. Md. Oct.
2015) (citing to Rehn v. Westfield Am., 153 Md.App.
586, 593 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2003)). It is undisputed here
that Defendant had actual knowledge of the “dangerous
condition, ” namely the puddle of spilled milk.
Def.'s Mot. 2 (acknowledging that an employee of
Defendant was made aware of the spill prior to
Plaintiff's fall). Instead, Defendant argues that
pursuant to the court's findings in Rehn, it did
not have “sufficient time to . . . remove [the hazard]
or to warn [Plaintiff].” Id. at 7;
Rehn, 153 Md.App., at 593.
There is a genuine issue for a trier of fact to determine
whether Defendant had sufficient time to warn Plaintiff of
the dangerous condition, such that Plaintiff's injuries
could have been avoided.
support of its Motion, Defendant argues that “Plaintiff
has not produce[d] any admissible evidence to establish a
prima facie case of negligence in accordance with
the well-settled premises liability law in Maryland.”
Def.'s Mot. 8. Specifically, Defendant points to
established case law in Maryland mandating that in premises
liability cases, there must be sufficient time given to the
storeowner to discover and cure the dangerous condition.
Id. at 6 (citing to Rehn, 153 Md.App., at
What will amount to sufficient time depends upon the
circumstances of the particular case, and involves
consideration of the nature of the danger, the number of
persons likely to be affected by it, the diligence required
to discover or prevent it, opportunities and means of
knowledge, the foresight which a person of ordinary care and
prudence would be expected to ...