United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. NOCE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants for
summary judgment. The Court heard arguments on the motion on
April 19, 2019. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
denies defendants' motion.
Catherine Fowler has brought a negligence claim against
defendants Midas Hospitality, LLC, and Midas St. Peters, LLC.
Plaintiff alleges that on December 16, 2016, she fell on ice
when she was a guest at the Courtyard Marriott St. Peters,
located at 4341 Veterans Memorial Parkway, St. Peters,
Missouri. (Doc. 54 at ¶ 1, Doc. 56 at ¶ 1). She
claims that defendants owned, operated, managed, or
controlled the hotel, and there was ice on the walkway
located immediately outside the main entrance of the hotel.
(Id. at ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiff claims that
under the innkeeper-guest special relationship, both
defendants were under an enhanced, affirmative obligation to
act with reasonable care to protect guests from injuries
while on the premises, and that they were negligent in
failing to address the walkway's dangerous condition.
(Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). As a result of the fall,
plaintiff claims she injured her left hip and femur,
requiring surgery. (Id. at ¶ 6).
judgment is proper “if there is no dispute of material
fact and reasonable fact finders could not find in favor of
the nonmoving party.” Shrable v. Eaton Corp.,
695 F.3d 768, 770-71 (8th Cir. 2012). The party moving for
summary judgment must show the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact on which the non-moving party has the burden of
proof and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The burden shifts
to the non-moving party to demonstrate that disputes of fact
do exist. Id.
is “material” if it could affect the ultimate
disposition of the case, and a factual dispute is
“genuine” if there is substantial evidence to
support a reasonable jury verdict in favor of the nonmoving
party. Rademacher v. HBE Corp., 645 F.3d 1005, 1010
(8th Cir. 2011). The court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and accord it the
benefit of all reasonable inferences. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
otherwise noted, the following facts are without substantial
dispute. Defendant Midas Hospitality has a management
contract to manage the Courtyard Marriott St. Peters hotel,
which is owned by defendant Midas St. Peters. (Doc. 54,
¶ 7; Doc. 56, ¶ 7). The hotel is a Marriott
franchise subject to Marriott brand standards, which require
that the hotel operator “must ensure that all sidewalks
and stairways are clear of ice and snow by using sand or salt
as needed.” (Doc. 58, ¶ 11). Because of this
Marriott brand standard, on December 16, 2016, around 4 p.m.,
the hotel's chief engineer applied ice melt or salt to
the hotel walkway, in an effort to make the walkway safe.
(Id. at ¶ 9; Doc. 58, ¶¶ 7-8, 12).
Defendants made no further inspection of the walkway for the
next three and a half hours and are uncertain whether the
walkway needed additional salt during this time. (Doc. 58,
plaintiff's brother drove plaintiff and his wife from
Kansas to St. Charles, Missouri, to attend a cousin's
funeral. (Doc. 54, ¶ 10; Doc. 56, ¶ 10). The
driving conditions were bad because of an ice storm that
produced freezing rain and snow: vehicles were travelling
approximately 30 miles per hour on the interstate, and
plaintiff's brother observed cars off of the road, in the
median, and on the shoulder. (Id. at ¶ 12). By
the time plaintiff arrived at the hotel, between 6:30 and
7:00 p.m., “I-70 was a parking lot.”
(Id. at ¶ 14).
brother pulled into the circular drive in front of the hotel,
parking under a covered area. (Id. at ¶ 15).
Plaintiff and her sister-in-law got out of the car and took
the luggage into the hotel, while plaintiff's brother
moved the car to a handicapped spot. (Id.). The
weather was misty, and there was no ice or snow accumulating
on the hotel walkway at the time plaintiff and her brother
arrived at the hotel. (Id. at ¶ 16; Doc. 58,
¶ 4). Plaintiff's party checked into the hotel, and
after about 30 minutes in their hotel room, they decided to
get dinner. (Doc. 54, ¶ 17; Doc. 56, ¶ 17).
Plaintiff and her brother walked out to the car around 7:30
p.m., while plaintiff's sister-in-law waited in the lobby
for them to pull the car around. (Id. at ¶ 19).
As he left the hotel lobby, plaintiff's brother noticed
that the walkway was wet. (Id. at ¶ 20). He
slipped on the sidewalk but did not fall. (Id. at
¶ 21). Neither plaintiff nor her brother saw ice or snow
accumulating on the hotel walkway when they exited the hotel,
nor did they see any type of salt or ice melt on the walkway.
(Id. at ¶¶ 22-23; Doc. 58 at ¶ 5).
Plaintiff did not see anyone shoveling or applying salt or
ice melt or any trucks plowing the drive. (Doc. 54, ¶
24; Doc. 56, ¶ 24). Plaintiff suddenly felt both feet go
out from underneath her and she fell. (Id. at ¶
26). As she lay on the ground, plaintiff felt ice on the
hotel walkway. (Id. at ¶ 27). Neither plaintiff
nor her brother saw any type of salt or ice melt on the
walkway after plaintiff's fall. (Id. at
parties dispute whose responsibility it was to apply ice melt
or salt to the hotel walkway. ¶ 8. They dispute the
length of the drive to St. Charles. ¶ 11. The parties
dispute that it was “cold” at the time of her
fall and the cause of the ground being wet: defendants
maintain that it was misting enough to make the ground wet,
while plaintiff argues there is no specific evidence in the
record of the precise cause of why the ground was wet at the
time. (Id. at ¶ 16). It is uncontroverted,
however, that defendants were aware “there was a
weather event” that began several hours before
plaintiff's fall. Defendants claim that plaintiff's
brother warned plaintiff prior to walking out to the car that
it was a little slick. Plaintiff denies this. (Id.
at ¶ 18). Plaintiff also denies that she could tell the
sidewalk was slick and feel her feet slipping a bit before
her fall. (Id. at ¶ 25).
diversity action, both sides invoke Missouri law as the
substantive rules of decision. 28 U.S.C. § 1652. Under
Missouri law, in order to establish a premises ...