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Sheena Admiral, et al v. Hilton Scranton & Conference Center and

December 20, 2010

SHEENA ADMIRAL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HILTON SCRANTON & CONFERENCE CENTER AND
GETAWAY WEEKEND VACATIONS, INC. D\B\A ADVENTURE UNLIMITED, DEFENDANTS,
LIKISHA BRADDY-ROBINSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HILTON SCRANTON & CONFERENCE CENTER AND
GETAWAY WEEKEND VACATIONS, INC. D\B\A ADVENTURE UNLIMITED, DEFENDANTS
JACKIE DAY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HILTON SCRANTON & CONFERENCE CENTER AND
GETAWAY WEEKEND VACATIONS, INC. D\B\A ADVENTURE UNLIMITED, DEFENDANTS
v.
SHEILA GOODSON THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

CONSOLIDATED CASE

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Defendant Hilton Scranton & Conference Center's ("Hilton Scranton") Motions for Summary Judgment in the above captioned cases. Since the Motions for Summary Judgment, the Briefs, and the Statements of Fact are identical in both cases, for convenience all of the Court's references will be to the docket for Admiral, et al. v. Hilton Scranton & Conference Center, Case No. 3:08-cv-287. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. Summary judgment will be granted for the Defendant as to Count I (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress), Count III (§ 1983 claims), and Count IV (42 U.S.C. § 2000a claims), but not as to Count II (42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims).

BACKGROUND

The instant suit stems from a ski trip which took place at the Hilton Scranton February 17 -19, 2006. These trips had been arranged between Defendant and Getaway Weekend Vacations ("Getaway") the prior summer. Getaway operates its vacations by selling the trips to individuals, known as "group leaders," who then sell the same trip to others, in exchange for discounts and other benefits for the leaders. Around November 9, 2005, Plaintiffs Gregory and Michelle Sanford entered into an agreement with Getaway to be group leaders for a ski trip to the Woodlands Inn and Resort ("Woodlands") which was to take place February 17-19, 2006. This trip was sold to around 80 (eighty) people. Around December 2005, Plaintiffs Sheila Goodson and Marshina McCrea entered into a similar agreement for a ski trip to the Woodlands to take place the same weekend. That trip was sold to approximately 38 (thirty-eight) people. The group leaders of both groups were informed on February 15, 2006 that the Woodlands would not be able to accommodate the Plaintiffs and, after some discussion, the leaders from both groups decided to have their trips at the Hilton Scranton. As a result, approximately 118 (one-hundred and eighteen) guests, which comprised the Sanford and Goodson\McGrea groups, were relocated to the Hilton Scranton. Upon arriving at the Hilton Scranton, Plaintiffs have testified that they were subjected to a series of discriminatory actions on the part of the Hilton Scranton on the basis of the fact that the Plaintiffs were African-American. The actions to which the Plaintiffs claim they were subjected include: a laborious check-in procedure in which Plaintiffs were forced to wait in a long check -in line and sign waivers that Caucasian guests didn't have to sign; being continually watched and monitored by members of the staff throughout the weekend; being denied adequate food and beverage and other hotel amenities; having the venue for a party that was planned changed for the sake of a function attended primarily by Caucasian guests; having the police called because of a complaint of an alleged "fight" without a proper investigation by hotel staff and in contravention to hotel policy; having the Hilton Scranton refuse to store their luggage; and being subjected to a long and humiliating check-out process to which Caucasian guests were not subjected. Hilton Scranton contends that the Plaintiffs were not treated any differently from Caucasian guests of the hotel and that, while Plaintiffs may have had a bad ski trip, no federal laws were violated.

After filing a Complaint of Discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in August 2007 and then receiving their Notice of Rights by the EEOC, the Plaintiffs filed three Complaints against Hilton Scranton and Getaway. On September 24, 2008, Amended Complaints were filed by the Plaintiffs. (Doc. 41.) Hilton Scranton filed a Motion to Consolidate all three cases on December 23, 2008 (Doc. 48) and the Braddy-Robinson and Day cases were consolidated. Owing to separate contractual issues between Plaintiffs and Getaway, however, the Admiral case was not included in the consolidation. Hilton Scranton filed its Motions for Summary Judgment on April 19, 2010. (Doc. 67.) On November 24, 2010, by Stipulation and Order, all claims asserted by Plaintiffs against Getaway and all cross-claims asserted by Getaway against Hilton Scranton, were dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 91.) Hilton Scranton's Motions for Summary Judgment have been fully briefed by both sides and are ripe for review.

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. 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. Id. 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 & ARTHUR R. 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. 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. Anderson, 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 determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

DISCUSSION

I. The Intentional Infliction of Emotional ...


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