United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.
Lucy Ianniello filed this negligence action against San
Rocco, Inc. d/b/a/ The Wellington Hotel (“San
Rocco”). ECF 1. Pending before this Court is San
Rocco's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF 35. The issues
have been fully briefed, ECF 35, 38, 41, and no hearing is
necessary, see Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the
reasons stated below, San Rocco's Motion will be denied.
facts below are taken in the light most favorable to
Ianniello, the non-moving party. In July of 2014, Ianniello
was vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland and staying at The
Wellington Hotel. ECF 10 ¶ 6. Ianniello was staying on
the second floor of the hotel, and the only way to access her
room was an outdoor wood staircase that had a handrail on one
side. ECF 38-1 at 4-5. She had been at the hotel for at least
one day prior to July 16, 2014. Ianniello Dep. 19:9-17; ECF
35-4 at 3.
about the morning of July 16, 2014, Ianniello exited the
hotel room to get a cup of coffee “a few minutes walk
away from the hotel, ” and then returned to her hotel
room. Ianniello Dep. 26:5-27:9. At some point in her trip out
to get coffee, Ianniello saw the hotel manager and San
Rocco's corporate designee, Sal D'Ascoli, who told
her to be careful,  which Ianniello took to mean, “Be
careful coming down the step[s].” Ianniello Dep.
33:6-33:18; see also D'Ascoli Dep. 5:1-15. After
her return, Ianniello left her room once more with her coffee
and an umbrella, and she slipped while coming down the last
few stairs. Ianniello Dep. 27:3-27:8. It had been raining
when Ianniello went to get coffee, but the rain became much
heavier by the time she left her room the second time.
Id. 29:12-29:20. Ianniello suffered bodily injuries
from her fall, including a fractured ankle. ECF 10 ¶ 7.
Ianniello, through this action, seeks compensatory damages
from San Rocco, alleging negligence. ECF 10.
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that 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). San Rocco, as the moving party, bears the
burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of
material facts. See Casey v. Geek Squad, 823
F.Supp.2d 334, 348 (D. Md. 2011). If San Rocco establishes
that there is no evidence to support Ianniello's case,
the burden then shifts to Ianniello to proffer specific facts
to show a genuine issue exists for trial. Id.
Ianniello must provide enough admissible evidence to
“carry the burden of proof at trial.”
Id. at 349 (quoting Mitchell v. Data Gen.
Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1315-16 (4th Cir. 1993)). The mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of
Ianniello's position is insufficient; rather, there must
be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for
Ianniello. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 252 (1986). Moreover, a genuine issue of material fact
cannot rest on “mere speculation, or building one
inference upon another.” Casey, 823 F.Supp.2d
at 349. Additionally, summary judgment shall be warranted if
the non-moving party fails to provide evidence that
establishes an essential element of the case. Ianniello
“must produce competent evidence on each element of his
or her claim.” Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare
Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). If
Ianniello fails to do so, “there can be no genuine
issue as to any material fact, ” because the failure to
prove an essential element of the case “necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); see also
Casey, 823 F.Supp.2d at 348-49. In ruling on a motion
for summary judgment, a court must view the facts and
inferences “in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,
Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986).
the alleged tort and resulting injury occurred in Maryland,
Maryland substantive law determines Plaintiff's burden of
proof and what constitutes a “material fact.”
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 injury occurred). Under well-established
Maryland negligence jurisprudence, a properly pleaded claim
of negligence includes four elements. Plaintiff must show:
(1) that Defendant was under a duty to protect Plaintiff from
injury; (2) that Defendant breached that duty; (3) that
Defendant's breach of the duty proximately caused the
loss or injury suffered by Plaintiff; and (4) that Plaintiff
suffered actual loss or injury. See Troxel v. Iguana
Cantina, 201 Md.App. 476, 495 (2011). In premises
liability cases, the duty of care owed by a landowner is
determined by the legal classification of the entrant.
See Deboy v. City of Crisfield, 167 Md.App. 548, 555
(2006). That is, the duty of care varies according to whether
the visitor is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
business invitee is owed the highest duty of care. See
Deboy, 167 Md.App. at 555. A landowner must
“exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from
injury caused by an unreasonable risk that the invitee would
be unlikely to perceive in the exercise of ordinary care for
his or her own safety, and about which the owner knows or
could have discovered in the exercise of reasonable
care.” Rybas v. Riverview Hotel Corp., 21
F.Supp.3d 548, 561 (2014). More specifically, the duties of a
landowner to a business invitee include “the obligation
to warn invitees of known hidden dangers, a duty to inspect,
and a duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable
dangers.” Id. A business invitee can
reasonably assume that a landowner will exercise reasonable
care to “ascertain the condition of the premises, and
if [the landowner] discovers any unsafe condition [he or she]
will either take such action as will correct the condition
and make it reasonably safe or give a warning of the unsafe
condition.” Rawls v. Hochschild, Kohn &
Co., 207 Md. 113, 117-18 (1955).
the heightened duty owed to the business invitee, a landowner
is not required to be an insurer of the invitee's safety.
Id. at 118. The invitee has a duty to observe his or
her surroundings and “exercise due care for his or her
own safety.” Rybas, 21 F.Supp.3d at 562. As a
result, a landowner has no duty to warn against open,
obvious, and present dangers. Id. Nor does a
presumption of negligence arise solely because an invitee was
injured on a landowner's premises. See Rawls,
207 Md. at 118.
prove that a landowner breached his duty, the business
invitee must show “not only that a dangerous condition
existed, but also that the proprietor ‘had actual or
constructive knowledge of it, and that that knowledge was
gained in sufficient time to give the owner the opportunity
to remove it or to warn the invitee.'” Rehn v.
Westfield America, 153 Md.App. 586, 593, 837 A.2d 981,
984 (2003) (quoting Keene v. Arlan's Dep't Store
of Baltimore, Inc., 35 Md.App. 250, 256, 370 A.2d 124,
128 (1977)). The invitee must proffer evidence indicating the
could have discovered the condition by the exercise of
ordinary care [because] the dangerous condition existed for a
length of time sufficient to permit a person under a duty to
discover it if [he or she] exercised ordinary care [and the]
failure to discover it may in itself be evidence of
negligence sufficient to charge [the landowner] with
knowledge of it.
Rawls, 207 Md. at 120. The facts and circumstances
of each individual case shall determine whether the length of
time taken to remedy or warn of a dangerous condition confers
liability upon a landowner. Id. at 122. Evidence
indicating the “nature of the condition, its
foreseeable consequences, the means and opportunities of
discovering it, the diligence required to discover and
correct it, and the foresight which a person of ordinary
prudence would have exercised under similar
circumstances” should all be considered. Id.
In a motion for summary judgment, “where it might
reasonably be decided that the [landowner] could have
discovered the dangerous condition by the exercise of
reasonable care, the case should be submitted to the
jury.” Id. However, where no inference