Krajcsik et al v. Ramsey et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 20 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; directing Plaintiffs to arrange a case planning conference to be held by 9/29/17 to discuss further proceedings leading to trial. Signed by Judge Marvin J. Garbis on 9/5/2017. (krs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CHERYL KRAJCSIK, et vir.
CECIL RAMSEY, et ux.
CIVIL ACTION NO. MJG-15-3708
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The Court has before it the Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 20] and the materials submitted relating
The Court has held a hearing and had the benefit of
the arguments of counsel.
On August 10, 2014, Plaintiffs Cheryl and Robert Krajcsik
(“Plaintiffs”)2 and Defendants Cecil and Sarah Ramsey
(“Defendants”) were in their respective boats moored in the
Eastern Yacht Club Marina on the Middle River in Essex,
The “facts” stated herein are as contended by Plaintiffs
and not necessarily agreed to by Defendants.
Plaintiffs also had Cheryl Krajcsik’s 12-13 year-old niece
They intended to take their boats to Strawberry Point
and enjoy a day of swimming.
The Krajcsiks departed the marina basin first in their Sea
Ray Sundancer (the “Sundancer”).
At some point, they realized
that the Defendants had not left the marina and stopped to
Mrs. Krajcsik spoke on the telephone to Mrs.
Ramsey and was informed that the Ramsey’s 330 Mariner (the
“Mariner”) had steering problems3 and was stopped outside the
marina. Mrs. Ramsey said she had called for a towboat to come
and tow the Mariner back to the marina.
However, after fifteen
minutes, Mrs. Krajcsik had not seen any towboat arriving and
made a second telephone call to Mrs. Ramsey.
parties present different versions of the second call, the Court
must assume for present purposes that Plaintiffs’ version is the
That is, that Plaintiffs, Mr. and Mrs. Krajcsik,
believed that the Defendants’ Mariner was drifting “dangerously
close to a rock jetty” and considered the Mariner to be in
[ECF No. 23] at 2.
With Defendants’ permission, the
Plaintiffs decided to attempt to rescue the Mariner.
Plaintiffs contend that the Defendants had negligently
taken the Mariner out of the marina. Defendants deny that they
The rescue effort, planned by Plaintiffs, called for
Plaintiffs to move their boat, the Sundancer, adjacent to the
Mariner, to tie the two vessels together, and to use the
Sundancer’s power to tow the Mariner away from the rocks and
back to the marina.
Mr. Krajcsik maneuvered the Sundancer next to the Mariner
and Mrs. Krajcsik held out a line to Mrs. Ramsey.
jumped from the Mariner onto the Sundancer and proceeded to tie
the two boats together from the Sundancer’s bow to the Mariner’s
Mr. Krajcsik testified that there were lines on both the
front and back of the Plaintiffs’ Sundancer going over to the
Defendants’ Mariner. R. Krajcsik Dep. at 31-32 [ECF No. 23-2].
While Mrs. Krajcsik was standing on the gunwale of the
Sundancer, Mr. Krajcsik made an announcement: he “you know
informed everybody, you know, hold on. We’re pretty much tied
up. I’m going to put the vessel in reverse and back us away
slowly from the hazard.”
Id. at 32.
At the time of this announcement, Mr. Krajcsik did not
suggest that his wife move from her location on the Sundancer’s
gunwale adjacent to the side of the Defendants’ Mariner. Id. at
Mr. Krajcsik put the Sundancer in reverse and the boat
slowly drifted back.
At this time, an unexpected wave, possibly
from a passing boat, came through and affected the two boats.
The side of the Sundancer dropped, and the Mariner heaved
upwards. The gunwale of the Mariner came down over the gunwale
of the Sundancer, made contact with Mrs. Krajcsik’s leg, and
crushed her big toe.
Mrs. Krajcsik’s toe eventually required
In the Amended Complaint [ECF No. 32], the Plaintiffs
present their claims in two counts:
Count One: Negligence (Both Plaintiffs)
Count Two: Loss of Consortium (Mr. Krajcsik)
By the instant motion, Defendants seek summary judgment in
regard to all claims presented. [ECF No. 20].
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the
pleadings and supporting documents show “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
The well-established principles pertinent to summary
judgment motions can be distilled to a simple statement:
Court may look at the evidence presented in regard to a motion
for summary judgment through the non-movant’s rose-colored
glasses, but must view it realistically.
After so doing, the
essential question is whether a reasonable fact-finder could
return a verdict for the non-movant or whether the movant would,
at trial, be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986);
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986);
Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991).
Thus, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment,
“the party opposing the motion must present evidence of specific
facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find for
him or her.”
Mackey v. Shalala, 43 F. Supp. 2d 559, 564 (D. Md.
1999). However, “self-serving, conclusory, and uncorroborated
statements are insufficient to create a genuine issue of
material fact.” Int’l Waste Indus. Corp v. Cape Envtl. Mgmt.,
Inc., 988 F. Supp. 2d 542, 558 n. 11 (D. Md. 2013).
When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court
must bear in mind that the “summary judgment procedure is
properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but
rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole,
which are designed ‘to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive
determination of every action.’”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327
(quoting Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).
To adequately plead a cause of action for negligence under
general maritime law, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to
support plausible claims that:
(1) There was a duty owed by the defendant to the
(2) The duty was breached;
(3) The plaintiff sustained injury; and
(4) There is a causal connection between the defendant’s
conduct and the plaintiff’s injury.
Vollmar v. O.C. Seacrets, Inc., 831 F. Supp. 2d 862, 866 (D. Md.
The instant case invokes the rescue doctrine, sometimes
referred to as the “danger-invites-rescue” doctrine.4
negligence actions, the rescue doctrine allows a rescuer to
The common law rescue doctrine is sometimes confused with
“Good Samaritan” statutes, which may immunize potential rescuers
from civil liability arising from negligent rescue attempts.
Anthony Acciaioli, Swept Away: Should Courts Retain Recklessness
Standard in Assessing Rescuer Injury Claims Under the Maritime
Rescue Doctrine?, 91 Notre Dame L. Rev. 2155, 2158 (2016). The
rescue doctrine is related to, but separate from, the
affirmative duty to rescue an imperiled party that the courts
impose on persons in some situations. See Prosser & Keeton on
the Law of Torts § 56, at 373-85 (W. Keeton 5th ed.
1984)(discussing affirmative duty to rescue). There is also the
similar “emergency doctrine,” which “relieves a person of
liability for his actions when that person is faced with a
sudden emergency that he didn’t help to create.” Cords v.
Anderson, 259 N.W.2d 672, 682 (Wis. 1977).
recover from a rescued party if the rescuer is injured in the
course of a rescue.
McCoy v. Am. Suzuki Motor Corp., 961 P.2d
952, 955–56 (Wash. 1998); see also Fulton v. St. Louis-San
Francisco Ry., 675 F.2d 1130, 1134 (10th Cir. 1982)(“[T]he
rescue doctrine also permits a rescuer to recover for his
injuries from the imperiled party if that person has negligently
placed himself in danger.”); Wagner v. Int’l Ry. Co., 133 N.E.
437, 438 (N.Y. 1921)(“The wrongdoer may not have foreseen the
coming of a deliverer. He is accountable as if he had.”);
Maryland Steel Co. v. Marney, 42 A. 60, 66 (1898)(noting that
the law encourages rescues and will not impute negligence to the
rescuer unless the rescuer acts rashly).
The rescue or “danger-invites-rescue” doctrine “creates a
duty of care towards a potential rescuer where the culpable
[rescued] party has placed himself in an imminently perilous
situation which invites rescue.” Khalil v. Guardino, 300 A.D.2d
360, 362 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002); Christensen v. Georgia-Pac.
Corp., 279 F.3d 807, 816 (9th Cir. 2002) (“Under the rescue
doctrine, which has long been recognized in tort law, the
foreseeable damages from a wrongful act include damages for the
injuries sustained by one who seeks to rescue the person first
endangered by that wrongful act.”(citation omitted)).
The rescue doctrine requires a tortfeasor to anticipate the
possibility that some bystander will yield to the meritorious
impulse to save life or even property from destruction, and
attempt a rescue. If applicable, the doctrine stretches the
foreseeability limitation to help bridge the proximate cause gap
between the defendant’s act and the plaintiff’s injury. Hutton
v. Logan, 566 S.E.2d 782, 785 (N.C. Ct. App. 2002)(citation
“In practice the doctrine may be used either to
establish a plaintiff’s claim that the defendant was guilty of
actionable negligence in creating the peril which induced the
rescue attempt or to eliminate the defenses of contributory
negligence and assumption of risk.”
Ouellette v. Carde, 612
A.2d 687, 689 (R.I. 1992).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
has stated that “[w]hen confronted with an emergency, a rescuer
should not be charged with the consequences of errors of
judgment resulting from the excitement and confusion of the
moment . . . .” Furka v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 755 F.2d
1085, 1088 (4th Cir. 1985)(Furka I).
In brief, the law will not
impute negligence to a rescuer unless the rescuer acted wantonly
Id. at 1088-89.
In Furka I, and in Furka v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.,
824 F.2d 330 (4th Cir. 1987)(Furka II), the Fourth Circuit held
that to find a rescuer contributorily negligent and jointly
liable for injury occurring in the course of a rescue mission,
the district court must analyze: (1) whether a rescue situation
existed, i.e., the rescuer perceived the need for a rescue
(under a wanton and reckless standard5), and (2) if a rescue
situation is found, whether the rescuer’s conduct during the
rescue was wanton or reckless. Id. at 332.6
Defendants argue that there was no duty owed to the
Plaintiffs because, by the time Defendants left the marina and
discovered the steering malfunction, Plaintiffs were safely
situated a substantial distance away from the marina and in no
Plaintiffs present a variety of arguments
regarding various duties owed in the context of the case, inter
alia, the duty to maintain a seaworthy vessel, the duty to
lookout, and the duty to warn.
Because the rescue doctrine
Plaintiffs need not show that there was an emergency that
required a rescue; they need only show that they actually
believed a rescue was needed and that this belief was not wanton
or reckless. See Furka II, 824 F.3d at 331-32.
The Ninth Circuit has explicitly followed Furka II and the
Fifth Circuit has adopted a similar rule. Wharf v. Burlington
N. R.R. Co., 60 F.3d 631, 635 (9th Cir. 1995); Grigsby v.
Coastal Marine Serv. of Tex., Inc., 412 F.2d 1011, 1021 (5th
Cir. 1969). But see Barlow v. Liberty Mar. Corp., 746 F.3d 518,
525–28 (2d Cir. 2014)(declining to follow the wanton or reckless
standard, the Second Circuit held that rescuers should be held
to the standard of a “reasonable seaman” or “reasonable mariner”
under the circumstances).
creates a duty of care towards potential rescuers, and under the
circumstances presented by Plaintiffs’ version of the facts
herein, Plaintiffs are foreseeable potential rescuers,
Defendants owed Plaintiffs a duty as potential rescuers.
it is unnecessary to address the entirety of Defendants’ duty
Defendants argue that there was no real need for a rescue,
that their boat was holding firm and was not in danger while
awaiting the towboat.
The Court finds that there are genuine
issues of material fact regarding the existence of a need for a
rescue attempt and, if it is found that there was no need for a
rescue, whether Plaintiffs decision to proceed with one was
wanton or reckless.
Furka I, 755 F.2d at 1088.
It is undisputed that Mrs. Krajcsik’s injury occurred
during the attempted “rescue,” whether warranted or not and
whether reckless or not.
However, there are disputed factual
issues relating to whether Mrs. Krajcsik was contributorily
negligent by virtue of the location in which she was standing,
and whether Mr. Krajcsik was contributorily negligent in his
captaining of the two boats.
There are genuine issues of material fact regarding outcome
determinative issues that prevent a grant of summary judgment.
For example, whether Defendants negligently took their boat out
of the marina, whether Plaintiffs acted wantonly or recklessly
in deciding to undertake a rescue and in carrying out the rescue
undertaken, whether Plaintiff Mrs. Krajcsik was a contributorily
negligent cause of her injury, and in determining – if necessary
– the parties’ comparative negligence.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that it must deny
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons:
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No.
20] is DENIED.
Plaintiffs shall arrange a case planning
conference to be held by September 29, 2017 to
discuss further proceedings leading to trial.
SO ORDERED, on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.
Marvin J. Garbis
United States District Judge
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