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Prameela Inaganti and Rao Inaganti, H/W v. Columbia Properties Harrisburg LLC D/B/A Harrisburg Courtyard

July 26, 2011

PRAMEELA INAGANTI AND RAO INAGANTI, H/W, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COLUMBIA PROPERTIES HARRISBURG LLC D/B/A HARRISBURG COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT AND COLUMBIA SUSSEX CORPORATION A/K/A HARRISBURG COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S. J.

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion of Defendants Columbia Properties Harrisburg LLC d/b/a Harrisburg Courtyard By Marriott and Columbia Sussex Corporation a/k/a Harrisburg Courtyard By Marriott (collectively "Defendants") for Summary Judgment on the Complaint filed by Plaintiffs Prameela and Rao Inaganti, husband and wife ("Plaintiffs"). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The event giving rise to this lawsuit occurred on January 29, 2008, at the Marriott Courtyard Harrisburg (the "Hotel"). Plaintiff Prameela Inaganti was staying at the Hotel in connection with a business trip for her employer SAP America. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, Dep. of Prameela Inaganti, 10:4-9, 19:11-14, Sept. 9, 2010 ("Inaganti Dep.").) She recalled that she arrived on Monday, January 28, 2008, which was a "cold winter day" with temperatures maybe in the "30s [or] 40s." (Id. at 20:4-12, 28:9-12, 28:13-18.) She further indicated that there was no snow on the ground and it was not raining. (Id. at 28:19-24.)

On the morning of January 29, 2008, Mrs. Inaganti woke up, got ready, and headed out to her car, which was parked on the side parking lot. (Id. at 29:14-18.) At the time, she was wearing pants and a shirt, a winter jacket, and flat rubber-soled shoes. (Id. at 31:5-21.) She left the hotel using the side entrance sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. (Id. at 30:13-17, 32:19-20.) As she exited, she noted that it was neither too dark nor too bright, and that it was "drizzling and kind of cloudy." (Id. at 33:14-19.) According to her observations, "everything seemed wet," but there was no snow of any kind. (Id. at 31:24-32:3, 38:20-24.)*fn2 Nonetheless, she had no difficulty either seeing the steps in front of her and where she needed to go, or walking down the steps.*fn3 (Id. at 33:20-34:2, 40:4-10.) She walked out, took a few steps down, and stepped onto the concrete walkway. (Id. at 30:21-23.) Upon putting her foot on the concrete walkway, however, she "just slid and fell on [her] back." (Id. at 30:21-31:1.) When asked if she noticed what caused her to fall, she replied that she "could not see anything. It's all black ice" and there was nothing otherwise visible. (Id. at 41:14-42:22.) Upon further questioning as to why she thought it was black ice if she could not see it, she replied, "[b]ecause of the way that I slipped I could tell. I had no control over my fall." (Id. at 42:3-8.) After she fell, Mrs. Inaganti got up fairly quickly because it was "freezing cold" outside. (Id. at 42:9-14.)

At her deposition, Mrs. Inaganti was shown photographs of the area in which her accident occurred. (Id. at 50:4-10.) While viewing those photographs, she indicated that she had no problems walking down the steps of the side entrance and did not notice any ice on those steps. (Id. at 53:16-21.) Moreover, she did not observe any ice, snow, or anything else on the concrete slab where the fall actually occurred, but upon falling, her coat got a bit wet. (Id. at 53:22-54:9.) She admitted, however, that she never determined if she actually slipped on ice. (Id. at 54:14-17.)

After her fall, Mrs. Inaganti went back into the hotel via the same side entrance she used to exit the hotel and just sat on the staircase hoping someone would see her. (Id. at 44:20-45:18.) Several minutes later, another guest asked if she needed help and then went to retrieve a hotel staff member. (Id. at 46:2-12.) Someone from the front desk arrived, at which point Mrs. Inaganti stated that she fell on ice outside. (Id. at 47:14-49:8.) The hotel employee called an ambulance for her. (Id. at 49:10-15.)

The individual from the front desk with whom Mrs. Inaganti spoke was subsequently identified as Megan Stoner. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. E., Dep. of Megan Stoner, 15:18-17:19, Dec. 3, 2010 ("Stoner Dep.").) Mrs. Stoner testified that she first talked to Mrs. Inaganti around 7:25 or 7:30 a.m. for about five minutes, following which she called the ambulance. (Id. at 17:7-10, 19:6-12.) At no point that day did Mrs. Stoner observe the area where the fall occurred. (Id. at 18:5-19:1.) She did, however, prepare an incident report about the fall. (Id. at 27:21-29:3; Inaganti Dep., Ex. 4.) In that report, it was written*fn4 that "Mrs. Inag[ati] fell outside of the hotel due to ice. . . . The ice storm was very sudden as it was raining and that suddenly froze." (Id.)

To corroborate the claim of black ice, Plaintiffs provided two additional pieces of evidence.

First, an individual named Bryon Long prepared a "Witness Statement" signed and dated September 27, 2010, indicating, in pertinent part, as follows:

I did not witness this fall. I did see Prameela being attended to. There was light rain that morning and temperatures were hovering around freezing. And there were a few patches of black ice as I remember. (Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B.) In addition, Plaintiffs supply a report from the Steelton Fire Department Ambulance, written by EMS Kenneth Gonzalez, Jr., which states, in pertinent part:

According to [Mrs. Inaganti], around 07:30 hours this morning while attempting to exit the hotel via the side entrance she slipped and fell. [Mrs. Inaganti] fell onto a conc[rete] surface. Conc[rete] at time of EMS AOS was complete ice covered. [Mrs. Inaganti] denied striking her head or losing consciousness. [Mrs. Inaganti] stated that she fell strait [sic] backward and landed flat on her back. (Id. Ex. C.)*fn5

Keith Komon, General Manager of the Hotel at the time of the incident, testified that, as part of his job, he took care of the parking lot and sidewalks at the Hotel. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. F, Dep. of Keith Komon, 9:16-10:14, 12:24-14:12, Dec. 2, 2010 ("Komon Dep.").) On a regular basis, he would watch the weather to keep on top of storms and, on the day of the accident, there was no anticipated storm. (Komon Dep. 14:18-15:11, 21:4-16.) In the event of a coming storm, Kumon would keep extra staff on at the hotel to shovel and salt the sidewalks, and ensure that the parking lot was plowed and shoveled. (Id. at 20:8-21:3, 22:7-23:17.) As a general rule, the Hotel took preventative measures, such as pre-salting, even before a storm hit. (Id. at 24:21-25:15.) Moreover, as a matter of routine practice, the Hotel's engineers would begin periodic property walks starting at 6:30 in the morning to look for dangerous conditions inside and outside, including the presence of ice and snow. (Id. at 40:6-41:2.) Similar walk-throughs and inspections would occur at least eight times per day. (Id. at 75:7-77:3.) If the engineers noticed any black ice or snow, they would immediately correct the situation by salting. (Id. at 77:18-78:4.)

On the day of the accident, Mr. Kumon did not notice anything icy on the sidewalk where Mrs. Inaganti fell. (Id. at 37:9-19.) Moreover, he had no prior knowledge that there was any black ice existing in the area around the Hotel that morning. (Id. at 71:12-72:17.) During Mr. Kumon's tenure at the Hotel, this was the only fall on ice of which he was aware.*fn6 (Id. at 54:19-55:1.) Both Mr. Kumon and Mrs. Stoner testified that shortly after Ms. ...


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