United States District Court, District of Columbia
KATHLEEN C. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
OMNI HOTELS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant. Re Document No. 21
Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge
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
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. See Mem. Op. at 3.
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.
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.
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.”).
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.
59(e) permits a court to “alter or amend a
judgment” in rare circumstances. 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).
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