Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Martin v. Omni Hotels Management Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 7, 2017

KATHLEEN C. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
OMNI HOTELS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant. Re Document No. 21

         Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Ms. Kathleen Martin, sued Defendant for injuries she sustained after tripping on a wrinkled floor mat in the lobby of Defendant's hotel. This Court granted Defendant summary judgment in August of 2016 because Ms. Martin failed to present sufficient, non-speculative evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Defendant's negligence caused her to fall. Dissatisfied with that result, Ms. Martin timely filed a motion requesting that the judgment be altered or amended pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Because the Court does not identify a clear error in its prior opinion, and Ms. Martin may not now attempt to introduce previously available evidence, the Court denies her motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Court has previously described the facts of this case, see generally Mem. Op. (Aug. 30, 2016), ECF No. 20, and confines its recital here to the most relevant facts. Ms. Martin was staying at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., which is owned by Defendant Omni Hotels Management Corporation (Omni). Mem. Op. at 1-2. Omni placed floor mats in the lobby as required by the weather. Mem. Op. at 5. In 2014, after several days of rain, Ms. Martin tripped and fell while walking over a wrinkled floor mat in the lobby. Mem. Op. at 2, 5. The fall broke Ms. Martin's arm and inflicted several other injuries, causing Ms. Martin to be hospitalized. Mem. Op. at 2. Ms. Martin's fall-and several wrinkles present in the mat at that moment-were captured by the hotel's video recording system, but only the portion of the video immediately surrounding the fall was preserved. See Mem. Op. at 2, 22. Ms. Martin's travelling companion also photographed the mat shortly after the fall, capturing the wrinkles. Mem. Op. at 2. The mat itself was preserved.[1] See Mem. Op. at 3.

         Ms. Martin asserts that the wrinkles in the mat caused her to trip, which Omni has not thus far contested. Mem. Op. at 2. Rather, the dispute and this Court's prior opinion centered on whether Ms. Martin had presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Omni had deviated from the applicable standard of care. Ms. Martin offered two alternative theories: first, that Omni laid the mat with the wrinkles present; or second, that Omni received either actual or constructive notice of the development of the wrinkles and failed to correct them prior to Ms. Martin's fall. Ms. Martin presented no direct evidence of when the mat was laid, the mat's condition when laid, or when the wrinkle formed in the mat. Instead, both of Ms. Martin's theories rely on the testimony of her expert, Lawrence Dinoff.[2]

         Mr. Dinoff examined the mat and briefly manipulated it. Mem. Op. at 3-4. Mr. Dinoff testified that the mat was “heavy enough” and “thick enough” that it had “short-term memory.” Dinoff Dep. 51:3-12, ECF No. 14-3. This memory meant that the mat did not easily change states between flat and wrinkled. See Dinoff Dep. 51:12-15. This conclusion was not challenged in the Court's prior opinion. Mr. Dinoff went further and testified that it was his opinion that the mat would require “hours and hours, if not days and days” to form wrinkles. Dinoff Dep. 126:17-127:3. When asked for the basis of his opinion that it would take at least hours to create a wrinkle in the mat, Mr. Dinoff answered that it was based on “[t]he nature of the mat.” Dinoff Dep. 127:6-12. When asked how long the memory of the mat was, Mr. Dinoff said he did not know, except that it was longer than the fifty-seconds shown in Omni's video. Dinoff Dep. 51:16-52:3.

         This conclusion by Mr. Dinoff that the mat would take, at least, hours to develop a wrinkle formed the nucleus of the dispute between the parties at summary judgment. The conclusion that the time required for a wrinkle to form provides the crucial link in both of Ms. Martin's theories because it would permit a jury to infer that the mat was either laid with the wrinkle or that the wrinkle was present for a long enough time prior to Ms. Martin's fall that Omni would have developed constructive knowledge of the wrinkle. See also Dinoff Dep. 110:1-14 (“[It is] my opinion that [the wrinkle] was present from the time the mat was first placed on [the] floor.”); Dinoff Dep. 124:15-18 (“[I]t is my opinion that this is the way [the mat] was when it was put down.”).

         This Court previously concluded that, because “Mr. Dinoff does not provide any factual foundation for his opinion that it would have taken a very lengthy period of time to form such wrinkles, ” “[t]he record contains no evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer-without resorting to speculation-that the mat was necessarily wrinkled at the time it was laid or that an alternative type of disturbance could not have formed wrinkles that would be retained by the mat's short term memory.” Mem. Op. at 16. Ms. Martin now challenges this conclusion through her Rule 59(e) motion.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 59(e) permits a court to “alter or amend a judgment” in rare circumstances.[3] Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e). Motions under Rule 59(e) are “disfavored and relief from judgment is granted only when the moving party establishes extraordinary circumstances.” Niedermeier v. Office of Baucus, 153 F.Supp.2d 23, 28 (D.D.C. 2001) (quoting Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1998)). A Rule 59(e) motion is granted at the district court's discretion, and “need not be granted unless the district court finds that there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Solomon v. Univ. of S. Cal., 255 F.R.D. 303, 304 (D.D.C. 2009).

         Relief under Rule 59(e) is not appropriate when the moving party seeks to “relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Niedermeier, 153 F.Supp.2d at 28 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Turner v. U.S. Capitol Police, No. 12-45, 2014 WL 169871, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 16, 2014). The party seeking reconsideration bears the burden of establishing that relief is warranted. Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 811 F.Supp.2d 216, 226 (D.D.C. 2011).

         IV. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.