The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY S. HARRIS
Before the Court are defendant's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff's opposition, and defendant's reply.
Summary judgment may be granted only "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). In considering a summary judgment motion, all evidence and the inferences to be drawn from it must be considered in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). Summary judgment cannot be granted "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, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Upon consideration of the entire record, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment. Although "findings of fact and conclusions of law are unnecessary on decisions of motions under Rule 12 or 56," the Court nonetheless sets forth its analysis. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a).
On the morning of January 8, 1991, the weather was clear with no precipitation. The weather continued to be clear throughout the day until approximately 4:00 p.m. when a freezing rainstorm began.
At approximately 5:00 p.m., during the storm, plaintiff left her job in Virginia and traveled by subway to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Plaintiff arrived at the Foggy Bottom station at about 6:00 p.m. and took the escalator up to ground level. When she reached the top of the escalator, freezing rain was still falling, and ice was coating the concrete, fences, and surrounding cars. Plaintiff immediately began sliding from the moment she stepped off of the escalator and began to walk across the Eye Street Plaza. Plaintiff slipped on the icy pavement of the Plaza and fell.
As a result of her fall, plaintiff fractured her ankle and received medical treatment for her injuries. Plaintiff contends that GWU was negligent in maintaining the Eye Street Plaza under its supervision by failing to remove accumulations of snow, slush, and ice which had formed on the pavement.
Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the grounds that under the District of Columbia Snow Removal Statute GWU owes no duty to remove sleet and ice while a freezing rainstorm is in progress. Additionally, defendant contends that there is no common law duty for a landowner in the District of Columbia to clear ice during a freezing rainstorm.
The dispositive issue is whether GWU had a duty to clear away the sleet and freezing rain from the Eye Street Plaza during the storm on January 8, 1991. In granting the motion for summary judgment, the Court holds that GWU has no statutory or common law duty to clear the sleet and freezing rain while a freezing rainstorm is in progress.
First, the "Snow Removal Statute" does not apply to the Eye Street Plaza. The statute requires that:
[a property owner] in charge or control of any building or lot of land . . . fronting or abutting on a paved sidewalk . . . within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, to remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away such snow or sleet from so much of said sidewalk . . . .
D.C. Code Ann. § 7-901 (1989). As a matter of law, the Eye Street Plaza does not qualify as a "sidewalk." In the District of Columbia, sidewalks "extend from the curb lines of the streets to the property lines of abutting lots. They are publicly owned, and are controlled exclusively by the municipal authorities of the District." Radinsky v. Ellis, 83 U.S. App. D.C. 172, 167 F.2d 745, 745 (D.C. Cir. 1948). Here, the Eye Street Plaza is privately owned by GWU. Moreover, the Plaza was created by closing off a section of Eye Street and does not fit the physical requirements of a sidewalk. Therefore, because the Plaza does not qualify as a sidewalk, the statute does not define GWU's duty to pedestrians such as plaintiff.
Second, under the undisputed circumstances of the case at bar, District of Columbia law does not impose a duty to clear sleet and freezing rain from the Plaza because the freezing rainstorm was in progress. According to District of Columbia law, a landowner has a duty of reasonable care under all the circumstances to all persons lawfully upon the landowner's property. Sandoe v. Lefta Assocs., 559 A.2d 732, 742 (D.C. 1988).
However, a landowner is not required to be a guarantor of the safety of all persons lawfully upon his premises. Id. at 741. District of Columbia common law provides that a landowner must be afforded reasonable notice or a reasonable opportunity for notice to treat or remove a hazardous condition.
Morris v. Prati, 163 A.2d 552, 553 (D.C. 1960). See Bray v. District of Columbia Transit System, Inc., 179 A.2d 387, 389 (D.C. 1962) (directing verdict for defendant bus company holding that there was no reasonable opportunity or time for the bus driver to remedy icy steps on a public bus ...