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Daniels v. Fernwood Corp.

May 16, 2007

WALTER DANIELS & KIMBERLY DANIELS, HUSBAND AND WIFE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FERNWOOD CORPORATION, T/D/B/A/ FERNWOOD HOTEL AND RESORT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (Doc. 11.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion will be granted.

The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code, section 1332 ("diversity of citizenship"). Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

BACKGROUND

On the morning of February 14, 2004, Plaintiff Walter Daniels was visiting the Fernwood Hotel and Resort ("Fernwood") for the purposes of engaging in the activity of snowtubing. (Compl. ¶ 3; Doc. 1.) Plaintiff made several runs down the hill without incident. (Id. ¶ 4.) During Plaintiff's preparation to make a fifth run down the hill, Mr. Daniels alleges that Defendant's employee informed him that lanes one and two could not be used because an earlier guest had almost gone over the wall at the bottom of the run. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant's employee then allegedly instructed Plaintiff to go down lane three of the hill, and in compliance with these instructions, Plaintiff sat down on the tube, secured himself, and proceeded down the run. About two-thirds of the way down the hill, Mr. Daniels encountered a right turn in the run that he alleges "was so negligently maintained, designed, or allowed to exist that it permitted him to be thrown from the run[,] causing him to become airborne for approximately thirty (30 feet[,] separating him from the tube and resulting in an impact upon his shoulders and back, [which] caus[ed] him serious, permanent and disabling injuries....". (Id. ¶ 6.)

On February 13, 2006, Plaintiff Walter Daniels filed a complaint with this Court, claiming personal injuries sustained as a result of the alleged negligent operation, maintenance, and design of a snow-tubing slope at Defendant's premises. (Doc. 1.) The Complaint also brings a cause of action for loss of consortium on behalf of Plaintiff Kimberly Daniels. On March 13, 2006, Defendant filed an answer (Doc. 4), and on May 8, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a reply (Doc. 6) thereto. On June 15, 2006, Defendant filed the present motion for summary judgment (Doc. 11), along with supporting documentation (Docs. 12, 13). On March 20, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to the present motion (Doc. 17), and on April 6, 2007, Defendant filed a reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18).

This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 256-57.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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