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M.D. v. SKI Shawnee, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 23, 2015

M.D., a minor, by and through her parent and natural guardian, Desiree Mora-Dillon, and DESIREE MORA-DILLON, in her own right, Plaintiffs
SKI SHAWNEE, INC., Defendant



Before the court for disposition is Defendant Ski Shawnee, Inc.’s (hereinafter “Ski Shawnee” or “defendant”) motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 20). This motion is fully briefed and ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the court will deny defendant’s motion.


This case arises from a downhill skiing accident that occurred at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area on January 19, 2012. (Doc. 20-2, Def.’s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 1).[1] Plaintiff M.D., who was nine years old at the time of the accident, participated in a ski trip with her elementary school. (Id.) M.D. was a novice skier, a beginner with no skiing experience other than three lessons, which she took at Shawnee. (Id. ¶ 2).

As she skied down “Little Chief” trail, M.D. collided with a snowmaking machine located on the slope. (Id. ¶ 3). M.D. suffered extensive injuries, including an open left forearm fracture, left open femoral shaft fracture, and facial lacerations. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 24). Plaintiff contends that incomplete padding on metal components of the snowmaking machine caused her injuries. (Doc. 21, Pl. Br. at 4).

Plaintiffs filed suit on November 26, 2013, alleging that defendant’s negligence caused M.D.’s injuries and seeking compensatory damages. (Doc. 11, Redacted Compl.). Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment on February 27, 2015. (Doc. 20). The parties then briefed the issues, bringing the case to its present posture.


The court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiffs M.D. and Desiree Mora-Dillon are citizens of New Jersey. (Doc. 11, Redacted Compl. ¶¶ 1-3). Defendant Ski Shawnee is incorporated under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 5). Additionally, the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Because complete diversity of citizenship exists among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the court has jurisdiction over the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (“district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States[.]”); 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (A defendant can generally remove a state court civil action to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction to address the matter pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute). As a federal court sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania applies 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)).

Legal Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper “‘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 judgment as a matter of law.’” See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int’l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by establishing 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. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts with affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.


Defendant moves for summary judgment on plaintiff’s negligence claims asserting that it had no duty to protect Plaintiff M.D. from the inherent risks associated with downhill skiing. Plaintiff counters that she can state a prima facie negligence claim and that genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment. After careful review, the court agrees with the plaintiff.

In Pennsylvania, the elements necessary to plead an action in negligence are: (1) the existence of a duty or obligation requiring a certain standard of conduct; (2) a failure to conform to that duty, or a breach thereof; (3) a causal connection between the breach and the harm; and (4) actual loss or damage ...

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