763 F.2d 444 (D.C. Cir. 1985), 84-5233, Grogan v. General Maintenance Service Co.

Docket Nº:84-5233, 84-5424.
Citation:763 F.2d 444
Party Name:Harold L. GROGAN, et al., Appellants, v. GENERAL MAINTENANCE SERVICE COMPANY, et al. Harold L. GROGAN, et al. v. GENERAL MAINTENANCE SERVICE COMPANY, Quadrangle Development Corporation, et al., Appellants.
Case Date:May 24, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 444

763 F.2d 444 (D.C. Cir. 1985)

Harold L. GROGAN, et al., Appellants,

v.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE SERVICE COMPANY, et al.

Harold L. GROGAN, et al.

v.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE SERVICE COMPANY, Quadrangle Development

Corporation, et al., Appellants.

Nos. 84-5233, 84-5424.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

May 24, 1985

Argued March 29, 1985.

Page 445

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 83-01060).

Peter C. DePaolis, Landover, Md., with whom Joseph H. Koonz, Jr., Washington, D.C., Carolyn McKenney and Roger C. Johnson, Landover, Md., were on brief, for appellants Harold L. Grogan, et al. in No. 84-5233.

Edward A. Sheridan, for appellants Quadrangle Development Corp. in No. 84-5424.

D'Ana E. Johnson, Washington, D.C., with whom James C. Gregg and James F. Bromley, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for appellee in Nos. 84-5233 and 84-5424.

Before WALD, MIKVA and STARR, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge STARR.

STARR, Circuit Judge.

In this consolidated case, Harold Grogan and his wife, Crawford Grogan, brought a tort action for damages arising out of Harold's slip and fall accident in a downtown Washington, D.C. office building. The defendants were General Maintenance Service Company (General Maintenance) and appellants Quadrangle Development Corporation, Square 119 Associates, and Square Realty, Inc. (collectively referred to as "Quadrangle"). 1 Quadrangle, the owner and manager of the building, filed a cross-claim against General Maintenance, which as its name suggests was responsible for cleaning the building. The cross-claim sought indemnity or contribution for all sums that might be awarded to the plaintiffs against Quadrangle.

Prior to trial, the Grogans settled their claim against Quadrangle, leaving General Maintenance as the solitary defendant. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a general verdict in favor of General Maintenance. The Grogans thereupon moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Rules 50(b) and 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At the same time, Quadrangle moved for a hearing on its cross-claim. The District Court denied both motions in separate orders, from which the Grogans and Quadrangle now appeal. Finding the Grogans' arguments without merit, we affirm the District Court's denial of the motion for judgment n.o.v. or new trial. We find, however, that Quadrangle is entitled to an opportunity to litigate its cross-claim against General Maintenance, to the extent of Quadrangle's contract-based claim against its maintenance

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contractor. Accordingly, we reverse in part and remand for consideration of that claim.

I

Harold Grogan worked as a sales representative for the Xerox Corporation. Although his office was located in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, Virginia, Mr. Grogan's duties brought him not infrequently to downtown Washington. It was there that the unhappy events which gave rise to this litigation occurred. On September 16, 1981, Mr. Grogan was working at a Xerox demonstration facility located on the mezzanine floor of 1919 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. After completing a demonstration of Xerox products between 5:00 and 5:15 p.m., Mr. Grogan went to use the men's restroom. There he fell to the floor, seriously injuring his back and head. According to the Grogans' complaint, Mr. Grogan slipped on a pool of water on the restroom floor. The complaint further alleged that the floor became wet and slippery as a result of General Maintenance's and Quadrangle's failure to maintain the restroom in a safe condition and to inspect the restrooms adequately to ensure that they were properly maintained.

Because of the nature of the Grogans' appeal, challenging as they do the lack of evidence to support the jury's verdict, it is necessary to recount briefly the testimony adduced at trial. Mr. Grogan testified that he slipped and fell after taking two steps into the restroom. When he regained consciousness, he noticed that his clothes were wet; in a similar vein, two witnesses, Mr. Park and Mr. Sturman, 2 testified that they found Mr. Grogan lying in a wet area of the floor. Several mezzanine floor tenants testified that they had frequently observed that water would accumulate on the sink counter and spill onto the floor in front of the sink. 3 The witnesses did not, however, agree on the cause of the water accumulation. Two tenants, Mr. Cox and Mr. Baghdassarian, testified that the faucet fixture leaked. On the other hand, Mr. Sturman and Mr. Park testified that visitors to the restroom would splash water onto the counter as they washed their hands. Indeed, Mr. Sturman testified that on some days more than forty Xerox employees and clients visited the demonstration facility and might have occasion to use the restroom. 4 Mr. Sturman also stated that on the day in question the floor's wetness was obvious and apparent to anyone as they entered the restroom. None of the tenants who testified recalled complaining about the problem of wet floors to either General Maintenance or Quadrangle. Similarly, neither General Maintenance's building work crew supervisor nor Quadrangle's assistant building manager recalled receiving any complaints with respect to the restroom.

Mr. Grogan recalled that he had worked at the Pennsylvania Avenue building about two or three times a month over the six months prior to his accident. He testified that on the day of his fall, his demonstration ran late, and he was due at a training session scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at his Rosslyn home office. During cross-examination, Mr. Grogan stated that he did not look down at the floor as he entered the restroom

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and conceded that the restroom was fully lit. Trial Transcript...

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