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Malcolm v. Monica

August 20, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McClure, Jr. United States District Judge

(Judge McClure)



Before the court is defendant Monica, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment requesting dismissal of this matter. On December 15, 2005, plaintiffs Elizabeth Malcolm and her husband Mark Malcolm filed their complaint asserting negligence and loss of consortium claims against defendant Monica, Inc.*fn1

Specifically, plaintiffs allege that while leaving one of defendant's restaurants, Elizabeth Malcolm fell down a negligently maintained single-step entranceway and suffered injury. On May 30, 2007, defendant filed its summary judgment motion. Defendant argues that plaintiffs have failed to produce sufficient evidence of negligence.

Defendant's motion for summary judgment is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, we will deny defendant's motion.


I. Standard of Review

It is appropriate for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment "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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Material facts" are those which might affect the outcome of the suit. Id.; Justofin v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 517, 521 (3d Cir. 2004).

"If the nonmoving party has the burden of persuasion at trial, 'the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial.'" Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 706 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Chippolini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d. Cir. 1987)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment the court will draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, (3d Cir. 1995). The nonmoving party, however, cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment by merely offering general denials, vague allegations, or conclusory statements; rather the party must point to specific evidence in the record that demonstrates that there is a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 32; Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999).

II. Statement of Facts

On January 20, 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm entered the dining area of the restaurant "All Star Sports Bar and Grill", which was located at the Quality Inn and Conference Center in Shamokin Dam, Pennsylvania. Monica, Inc. owned both the hotel and restaurant since December 2000. The restaurant had a platform dining area which could only be accessed by entering and exiting over a single step. Plaintiffs contend that the flooring material above and below the step was the same, there were no contrasting marking stripes or "leading edge indicators", there were no handrails for the step, the overhead lighting was dim, and the area around the step was dark. Further, plaintiffs contend that there was a piece of white paper located to the right side of the step that was intended to act as a warning regarding the step. While proceeding to the dining area, Mr. Malcolm noticed the single step, and informed his wife about the step's existence. Both Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm successfully walked up the step and proceeded to have breakfast in the dining area. Although the parties dispute how long the plaintiffs dined, it appears it took no longer than forty minutes. See (Pls.' Statement of Material Facts, Doc. Rec. No. 40, at ¶ 13.) After finishing breakfast, Mrs. Malcolm proceeded to the same single step she walked up when entering the dining area. This time she fell, which resulted in significant injury.

The defendant represents that since it obtained ownership of the restaurant in December 2000, noone has complained about the single step, nor had any employee been told that the step constituted a dangerous condition. Defendant further states that thousands of people have walked up and down the step, and that to its knowledge noone has fallen at the step since Mrs. Malcolm fell on January 20, 2004. Plaintiffs do not offer evidence ...

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