Simpkins v. U.S., Civil Action No. 01-1288 (RBW).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation253 F.Supp.2d 4
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 01-1288 (RBW).
PartiesMarilyn SIMPKINS, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America and Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, Defendants.
Decision Date31 March 2003
253 F.Supp.2d 4
Marilyn SIMPKINS, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES of America and Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, Defendants.
Civil Action No. 01-1288 (RBW).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
March 31, 2003.

Geoffrey Davies Allen, Washington, DC, for plaintiff.

Madelyn Elise Johnson, Laurie J. Weinstein, Washington, DC, for federal defendant/cross-defendant.

Lisa Denise Fentress, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC, for defendant.


WALTON, District Judge.

The plaintiffs complaint arises from injuries she sustained in the District of Columbia upon alighting from a bus, owned

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and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), when her foot came into contact with an unpaved section of the sidewalk on parkland property owned by the United States, otherwise known as Union Station Plaza. Federal Defendants' Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute ("Fed. St. of Facts") at ¶ 3; Plaintiffs Statement of Facts Not in Dispute ("Pl.'s St. of Facts") at ¶ 2. This matter is currently before the Court on the Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment ("Fed.Mot."). The federal government asserts that it is not a proper defendant because WMATA is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk at the bus stop pursuant to a Cooperative Agreement that was entered into by the federal government and WMATA. This Cooperative Agreement provides that WMATA is "fully responsible for the management, maintenance, protection, use and safety of all transit facilities located over, under or on parkland." Fed. Mot., Exhibit ("Ex.") G (Cooperative Agreement Between the Secretary of the Interior by and through the National Park Service and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) ("Cooperative Agreement"), ¶ 16. According to the federal defendant, paragraph 16 of the Cooperative Agreement covers the sidewalk in front of the bus stop, and thus WMATA was solely responsible for the plaintiffs injuries. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the federal defendant's motion because the federal defendant had a duty of care to the public to ensure that the sidewalk was safe.

I. Factual Background

On September 1, 1999, the plaintiff, a forty-five year-old woman, was exiting a WMATA bus at Columbus Circle, N.E., Washington, D.C., when her foot allegedly came into contact with an unpaved section of the sidewalk and she fell. Fed. St. of Facts at¶ ¶ 1-2; Pl.'s St. of Facts at ¶ ¶ 1-2. It is undisputed that the location of the accident was on parkland owned by the United States. Fed. St. of Facts at 115; Pl.'s St. of Facts at ¶ 3. What is in dispute is who was responsible for the maintenance of this location and the effect of the paragraph 16 of Amendment Number 2 of the Cooperative Agreement on this question.

II. Standard of Review: Rule 56

The defendant has sought dismissal of the plaintiffs claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court's consideration of whether the plaintiffs pleading stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) has led it to consider matters outside of the pleadings. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) states, in part, that:

If, on a motion asserting the defense numbered (6) to dismiss for failure of the pleading to state a claim upon which can be granted, matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56, and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56.

Therefore, this Court will examine the plaintiffs claims under Rule 56.

Summary judgment is generally appropriate when "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 assessing a summary judgment motion, the Supreme Court has explained that a trial court must look to the substantive law of the claims at

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issue to determine whether a fact is "material", Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., All U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). And a "genuine issue" of fact is "one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action." Sanders v. Veneman, 211 F.Supp.2d 10, 14 (D.D.C.2002) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson, All U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505).

While it is generally understood that when considering a motion for summary judgment a court must "draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true," Greene v. Amritsar Auto Servs. Co., 206 F.Supp.2d 4, 7 (D.D.C.2002) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505), the non-moving party must establish more than "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiffs position", Anderson, All U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. To prevail on a summary judgment motion, the moving party must demonstrate that the non-moving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 411 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The District of Columbia Circuit has stated that the non-moving party may not rely solely on mere conclusory allegations. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C.Cir.1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150,...

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