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RUCKER v. MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL INC.

January 2, 2004.

BOBBY RUCKER
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL INC. CORPORATE PARENT t/a PHILADELPHIA DOWNTOWN MARRIOTT HOTEL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STEWART DALZELL, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

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. Page 2

Factual Background

  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. See Compl.

  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 Page 3 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

 Analysis

  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. Page 4

  A. Summary Judgment

  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 Page 5 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 veil.

  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 ...


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