United States District Court, D. Maryland
LISA E. GARVINE Plaintiff,
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al, Defendants.
MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
suit arises out of injuries sustained by Plaintiff Lisa E.
Garvine after falling off her horse on October 11, 2015,
during a charity horse ride organized by Defendant The Oxford
Grain & Hay Company (“Oxford”) on land owned
by Defendant State of Maryland (“Maryland” or the
“State”), (collectively, the
“Defendants”). The parties consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
and Local Rule 301.4. (ECF Nos. 61, 63, 64). Plaintiff
previously filed the Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 35), against
Oxford and Maryland alleging negligence. Maryland has also
filed a Third Party Complaint, (ECF No. 6), against Oxford
for negligence and indemnification and/or contribution. Now
pending before the Court is Oxford's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (ECF No. 49), and Maryland's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (ECF No. 50). In considering those motions, the
Court has also reviewed all relevant responses in opposition
and replies in support. (ECF Nos. 52, 53, 55, 56). No.
hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the reasons that follow, both motions will be
History and Organization of The Pink Poker Prance
Oxford Grain & Hay Company is a Pennsylvania corporation
that sells grain and feed, animal supplies, and lumber and
hardware. (ECF No. 49-1 at 1). Oxford organizes the Pink
Poker Prance, a yearly breast cancer awareness charity horse
ride in the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area
(“Fair Hill”). (Dep. of Lawrie Drennen, ECF No.
50-9 at 3). Oxford's Lawrie Drennen served as the event
director. (ECF No. 49-4 at 1). Fair Hill is a property owned
by the State and managed by the Maryland Park
Service. (Affidavit of Rachel Temby, Park Ranger,
ECF No. 50-12 at ¶ 1). Fair Hill contains over five
thousand (5, 000) acres of land and approximately eighty (80)
miles of trails. (Dep. of Rachel Temby, ECF No. 50-8 at 3).
September 25, 2015, Oxford submitted an Organizational Plan
to the State for the Pink Poker Prance event that the State
accepted. (ECF No. 49-4 at 1). The Organizational Plan stated
that the “Event Director, ” i.e. Ms. Drennen,
“has overall responsibility for the safe conduct of the
event” and “shall coordinate with the park
authorities prior to the ride to ensure that [the] trail is
in good shape and course conditions are suitable for safe
conduct of the event.” Id. As part of the
Organizational Plan approval, Oxford secured one million
dollars ($1, 000, 000.00) in insurance and agreed to pay the
State a one hundred twenty-five dollar ($125.00) reservation
fee. (ECF Nos. 52-11, 52-12).
Plaintiff's Injury at the 2015 Pink Poker Prance
October 11, 2015, the date of the event, Oxford provided Pink
Poker Prance participants with event instructions when they
entered the Fair Hill parking lot. (ECF No. 50-9 at 10-11).
Participants were instructed to: (1) stop at the registration
tent upon arrival to pick up their first poker card and a
goodie bucket; (2) proceed to the photo opportunity area; and
then, (3) proceed to the starting gate, where they would
receive their second poker card. (ECF No. 50-11; Dep. of Lisa
Garvine, ECF No. 50-4 at 24-27). The station for receiving
the second poker card was between fifty (50) and seventy (70)
feet from the beginning of the Orange Trail. (ECF No. 50-9 at
15). All of the approximately three hundred fifty (350)
participants were also required to sign a waiver and release
before heading out on the trail. Id. at 8-9, 18.
Garvine arrived at the event with her fiancé's
adult daughter, LeeAnn Haaf, and her two horses, Ice and
Reiner. (ECF 50-4 at 21; 98-99). Before the event began, they
were joined by Ms. Garvine's best friend, Sandy Boyer, as
well as Ms. Garvine's cousin, Rodney Klair, and his
girlfriend. (ECF No. 49-1 at 6). Ms. Garvine did not pay any
entrance fee to use the Fair Hill premises on that date, but
she did pay a thirty-five dollar ($35.00) fee to Oxford for
participation in the event. (ECF No. 53-2 at 7). Ms. Garvine
also bought tickets for raffle items, (ECF No. 50-4 at
81-82), and signed the registration form, (ECF No. 50-13).
The registration form included a waiver:
Oxford Feed & Lumber is not responsible for any person,
horse or your property during the trail ride. Please secure
your belongings and trailer. Participate at your own risk.
Rider cannot participate unless this
form is filled out completely and SIGNED.
ECF No. 50-13 at 2 (emphasis in original). Ms. Garvine
testified that she read the waiver to mean that “Oxford
Feed is not responsible for [Ms. Garvine] or [her] horse if
anything happens to [her] or [her horse] out on that charity
ride.” (ECF No. 56 at 4). Although she had been to Fair
Hill before, Ms. Garvine testified that she had not been
through the area where the accident occurred, although she
admitted that it is possible she had been through there on a
different charity ride. (ECF No. 50-4 at 100). She did not do
anything in particular to prepare her horse, Ice, for the
event. Id. at 59-60.
does every year, Oxford selected the “Orange
Trail” at Fair Hill as the trail route for the Pink
Poker Prance. (ECF No. 50-9 at 4-5). The Orange Trail begins
at a gravel trail road and is marked with an orange trail
blaze marker. (ECF Nos. 50-8 at 19-20; 50-9 at 17; 50-15).
The trail was marked with pink ribbons on the day of the
event. (ECF No. 52-10 at 1-2). There are approximately three
(3) to five (5) wide grass strips along either side of the
trail that are to be mowed weekly. (ECF No. 50-8 at 22). At
the start of the Orange Trail on the east side, there is a
culvert situated off of the first orange blaze
marking on the trail. (ECF Nos. 50-4 at 87; 50-8 at 19;
50-15). The culvert is located next to a stream and is
positioned lower than the trail itself, so there is a
moderately steep drop off from the edge of the trail. (ECF
Nos. 50-8 at 10; 50-4 at 96-97). There is only one break in
the fence such that it is the only way to get from the
registration field onto the Orange Trail. (ECF No. 50-9 at
14). A Park Hill ranger testified that this route was used in
other equestrian events and did not create a dangerous
situation for horses or riders. (Dep. of Joann Bashore, ECF
No. 49-7 at 3-5).
first stopping at the registration tent to check in and
purchase raffle tickets, Ms. Garvine mounted Ice at her
trailer and proceeded directly to the start of the course
with Ms. Boyer, with Ms. Haaf trailing behind them. (Dep. of
LeeAnn Haaf, ECF No. 50-5 at 15; Dep. of Lisa Garvine, ECF
No. 50-4 at 24). They did not stop at the event photo booth
or second card station, heading straight to the road from the
trailer. (Dep. of Lisa Garvine, ECF No. 50-4 at 26- 27). Upon
reaching the start of the Orange Trail from the registration
field, Ms. Boyer and Ms. Garvine observed a group of about
five (5) horse-and-rider pairs stopped ahead of them on the
trail. (Dep. of Lisa Garvine, ECF 50-4 at 30; Dep. of Sandra
Boyer, ECF No. 50-14 at 5). A member of that group ahead
yelled for Ms. Boyer and Ms. Garvine to stop because one of
the horses ahead was bucking its rider. (ECF No. 50-4 at 32).
Ms. Boyer stopped her horse so that she continued to face the
direction of the trail and the front group of horses. (ECF
No. 50-14 at 6-7). Ms. Garvine rode up next to Ms. Boyer and
turned Ice to face her, away from the direction of the trail
and other horses, so that the two women could speak while
they waited. (ECF No. 50-4 at 32, 35, 86). Ms. Garvine
testified that they “weren't very far” from
the front group of horses. (ECF No. 50-4 at 41). Ms. Boyer
testified they were “very close.” (ECF No. 50-14
at 12). Although Ms. Garvine could not recall exactly where
her horse was positioned relative to Ms. Boyer or the edge of
the culvert, (ECF No. 50-4 at 93), Ms. Boyer recalled that
their horses were about two (2) horse lengths apart. (ECF No.
50-14 at 11).
Garvine and Ms. Boyer talked for a few minutes while they
waited for the front group to calm the bucking horse. (ECF
No. 50-4 at 35-36). When the front group “was getting
ready to move on, ” Ms. Garvine directed Ice to turn to
the right in order to proceed onto the trail ride because the
area to the left was “overgrown.” Id. at
32, 44. According to Ms. Garvine, at that point, Ice
“squared” up to turn, took a step, and fell down
the edge of the culvert. Id. at 44- 45. Ms. Garvine
asserts she did not direct Ice to move backward at any point.
Id. at 47. After Ice lost his footing down the edge
of the culvert, Ms. Garvine fell into a stream and Ice landed
on top of her. Id. at 48. Ice had to roll five (5)
or six (6) times in order to get up. Id. Ms. Garvine
suffered bruises and abrasions as well as injuries to her
shoulder, scapula, and ribs. Id. at 78, 91, 95. Ice
made a full recovery. Id. at 92.
Garvine testified that the edge of the culvert, the drop off,
and the stream were obscured by high weeds and overgrown
vegetation so that she could not see the drop off or stream
as she sat on her horse. Id. at 34, 71. She
described the overgrowth as being the height of a conference
table or a little lower, and explained that the vegetation
was located off of the trail, in the grass strip between the
road and the culvert edge. Id. at 87, 95, 98. Ms.
Boyer testified that there was “a lot” of grass
off to the right of the trail, estimating that the grass
between the trail road and the edge of the culvert was
approximately eighteen (18) inches high. (ECF No. 50-14 at
16). She agreed that she would have been able to see the
culvert over the grass while seated on her horse, but stated
that she was not looking in that direction at the time.
Id. at 17-18. Ms. Haaf also stated that there was
“all this vegetation” in the area in front of
where Ms. Boyer and Ms. Garvine had stopped their horses, and
that she saw Ms. Garvine and Ice “disappear into
vegetation.” (ECF No. 52-14 at 3-4). Mr. Drennen
testified that the growth around the culvert that day was
between three (3) and four (4) feet tall. (ECF No. 52-9 at
12). Ms. Temby testified that the culvert was not obscured by
vegetation and explained that visitors to Fair Hill are to
utilize the trails in the designated areas only. (ECF No.
50-8 at 21, 24-26).
to and in anticipation of the 2015 Pink Poker Prance, Fair
Hill's trail crew checked course maps and the
corresponding trails for downed trees, low limbs, loose
rocks, and other similar conditions. (ECF No. 50-8 at 8-10).
Although the trail crew members look for “blatant
issues, ” they “don't do an overhaul of the
trail as far as sweeping it free of leaves and debris and
twigs” because it is a “natural setting.”
Id. According to Ms. Temby, Plaintiff was the first
person to fail to observe the culvert and fall into it in the
six (6) years that the Pink Poker Prance event has been held.
(ECF No. 50-8 at 14). Mr. Drennen was also unaware of any
injuries from the previous years' Pink Poker Prance
events. (ECF No. 50-9 at 5).
Plaintiff's Prior Experiences with Ice and Statements
Made After Injury
Garvine began riding at the age of eight (8) and acquired her
first pony at thirteen (13). (ECF No. 50-4 at 3). At the time
of the accident, Ms. Garvine was 56 years old. (ECF No. 52-3
at 2). She testified that she understand horse riding can be
a dangerous activity and going out onto somebody else's
land can also be dangerous. (ECF No. 50-4 at 66). Ms. Garvine
acquired Ice in 2006. Id. at 5. She described him as
a “trail horse, ” and a gelding “Quarter
Horse” that is fifteen and one-tenth (15.1) hands tall.
Id. at 11-12. She does not know if Ice has done
trail events in the past. Id.
Haaf testified that Ice can be difficult to load into a
trailer and can be “stubborn, ” so she was
“working with him and retraining him to load” in
the time after the accident leading up to her deposition.
(ECF No. 50-5 at 5). However, on the date of the Pink Poker
Prance, Ice did not have any problems being loaded into the
trailer. (ECF No. 50-4 at 20). Ms. Garvine's cousin,
Rodney Klair, testified that he did not like Ice because he
is a “stubborn” horse and will become
“fussy” when separated from other horses. (ECF
No. 50-7 at 6-9). Mr. Klair further explained that he has
witnessed Ms. Garvine have to dismount Ice, at least two
times, when he became agitated from separation anxiety from
other horses. Id. at 10. Ms. Garvine also testified
that Ice had previously backed up “on his own”
without instruction to do so, and that she has fallen from
Ice twice. (ECF No. 49-9 at 8-10). At least one time, Ms.
Garvine fell because Ice had wanted to “run the fence
line” with other horses and “bucked.”
Id. Ice has also “thrown” her.
Id. at 7. Ms. Garvine has not taken any riding
lessons on Ice, but “tr[ies] to go out three to four
times a month maybe” to ride Ice. (ECF No. 50-4 at 14,
the incident, as Ms. Garvine awaited medical treatment, Mr.
Klair approached and asked her, “Now can we get rid of
that fucking horse?” (ECF No. 50-7 at 6). His statement
was also overheard by a Fair Hill park ranger. (Dep. of
Michael Harkins, ECF No. 50-20 at 5). In response, Ms.
Garvine allegedly stated: “Yes, I guess we can get rid
of the horse now. This is about the third time
he's-second or third time that he sat there and threw
me.” (Dep. of Darlene Clark-Reedy, ECF No. 50-19 at
Ms. Garvine also allegedly stated that Ice was too
“green” to come to the event, that she should not
have brought him to it, and that the fall had been her fault.
Id. at 8-10. Further, Ms. Garvine allegedly
explained that when she asked Ice “to go, he got
scared, didn't want to go, and backed up into the
culvert.” Id. at 11. Ms. Garvine denies making
any of these statements. (ECF No. 52-3 at 34-35).
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“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.” The moving
party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v.
Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D.
Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A dispute as to a
material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd.
P'ship, 115 F.Supp.35 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)).
nonmoving 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. Baltimore
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003). The court is “required to view the facts and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to” the nonmoving party, Iko v. Shreve, 535
F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must also
“abide by the ‘affirmative obligation of the
trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and