The opinion of the court was delivered by: STEWART DALZELL, District Judge
Bobby Rucker suffered an injury at a Marriott hotel, and he sued the
entity that he believed to be responsible for owning and operating those
premises, Marriott International, Inc. ("Marriott International").
Marriott International has moved for summary judgment,*fn1 and we here
address that motion and other related matters.
On October 15, 2001, Rucker visited the Marriott hotel located at 1201
Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania*fn2 as part of his duties as a
deliveryman for Consolidated Freightways. While making his delivery,
Rucker allegedly "skidded" on a greasy loading dock, fell to the ground,
and suffered personal injuries. Compl. ¶ 6.
Rucker initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Philadelphia
County Court of Common Pleas on August 4, 2003. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
A. The complaint named Marriott International as a defendant because
Rucker believed that it was the "the owner  and/or operator " of the
Hotel and was therefore "responsible for [its] maintenance." Compl. ¶
3. The complaint's sole cause of action sounded in negligence.
Marriott International removed the case to this Court on August 15,
2003 and shortly thereafter answered the complaint. In its answer,
Marriott International "specifically denied that [it was] the owner or
operator" of the Hotel. Answer ¶ 2.
On November 17, 2003, Marriott International filed a motion for summary
judgment asserting that it did not owe Rucker a duty of care because it
did not own or operate the Hotel and concluding that, absent any duty to
him, Rucker's negligence
claim could not succeed as a matter of law. Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot.
Summ. J. at 5. The exhibits supporting the motion for summary judgment
revealed, for the first time, that Philadelphia Market Street HMC Limited
Partnership (the "Market Street Partnership") actually owns the Hotel and
that Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. ("Marriott Services") operates it.
See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. C. Marriott Services is a
wholly-owned subsidiary of Marriott International. See Def.'s
Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D ¶ D, at 2.*fn3
In his response to the motion for summary judgment, Rucker insists that
he "properly named Marriott International" as a defendant. See
Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. at 8. Rucker also suggests that we should
permit him to amend his complaint to join the Market Street Partnership
and Marriott Services as defendants, with the amendment relating back to
the date on which he filed the original complaint. We address each
argument in turn.
Rucker's only claim against Marriott International is for negligence.
In Pennsylvania,*fn4 "[t]he necessary elements to maintain an action in
negligence are: a duty or obligation recognized by the law, requiring the
actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct; a failure to conform
to the standard required; a causal connection between the conduct and the
resulting injury and actual loss or damage resulting to the interests of
another." Morena v. South Hills Health System, 501 Pa. 634, 642
n.5, 462 A.2d 680, 684 n.5 (1983).
Marriott International argues that it deserves summary judgment because
it owed no duty to Rucker and, thus, it could not have been negligent.
See Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 5. Although Rucker
believed that Marriott International owed him a duty of reasonable care
by virtue of its apparent ownership and operation of the Hotel, Marriott
International has presented uncontroverted evidence that it neither owned
nor operated the Hotel on October 15, 2001. See Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. C. As
Rucker has not explicitly advanced any other basis for imposing on
Marriott International a duty to maintain premises that it did not own or
operate, we hold that Marriott International owed no duty to him.
Still, Rucker suggests that we should pierce Marriott International's
corporate veil and hold it responsible for the negligence of its "shell
corporations which were created . . . to avoid any potential
liability." See Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. at 8. This
suggestion faces a heavy burden because "courts will disregard the
corporate entity only in limited circumstances when used to defeat public
convenience, justify wrong, protect fraud or defend crime." Kiehl v.
Action Mfg. Co., 517 Pa. 183, 190, 535 A.2d 571, 574 (1987). In this
case, there is no evidence that Marriott International created the Market
Street Partnership or Marriott Services for any of the purposes that
Kiehl forbids, so there is no basis for piercing the corporate
Marriott International owed no duty to Rucker, and it is not legally
responsible for the acts and omissions of its wholly owned subsidiaries.
In these circumstances, Marriott International could not have been
negligent, so we shall enter summary judgment in its favor. See
Clark v. Marriott Envtl. Servs., No. 93-3279, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
1328 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 6, 1994) (R. Kelly, J.) (granting summary judgment to
defendant when its ...