Umheni v. Target Corporation
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Roger W Titus on 3/30/2017. (Titus, Roger)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Case No. RWT 15-cv-3827
On October 14, 2015, the Plaintiff, Tina Umheni (“Umheni”), filed a Complaint in the
Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland against Target Corporation (“Target”) for
claims arising out of Umheni’s fall in one of Target’s stores “when she stepped in a clear
substance on the floor.” ECF No. 2 at 2–6. Target removed the case to this Court on December
16, 2015. ECF No. 1.
On January 20, 2017, Target filed a case status report stating that it intended to file a
Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 33 at 1. Target then filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment on February 24, 2017. ECF No. 34. To date, Umheni has not filed a Response, and
the deadline to do so has long ago passed. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is unopposed. 1
Summary judgment is proper under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(a) if there is no genuine
dispute of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Francis v. Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 452 F.3d
299, 302 (4th Cir. 2006). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material
This is not the first time that Plaintiff’s Counsel has failed to respond to a motion. A Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s
Amended Complaint [ECF No. 24] was granted when no opposition was filed. ECF No. 31.
fact is genuine if the evidence would allow the trier of fact to return a verdict for the nonmoving
Id. When considering a motion summary judgment, the court has “an affirmative
obligation . . . to prevent ‘factually unsupported claims or defenses’ from proceeding to trial.”
Felty v. Grave-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at
323–24). Thus, the Court may only rely on facts supported in the record, not assertions made in
the pleading. Id. Moreover, the Court must view all facts and make all reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsuhita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
“Although the failure of a party to respond to a summary judgment motion may leave
uncontroverted those facts established by the motion, the moving party must still show that the
uncontroverted facts entitle the party to ‘a judgment as a matter of law’. . . Thus, the court, in
considering a motion for summary judgment, must review the motion, even if unopposed, and
determine from what it has before it whether the moving party is entitled to summary judgment
as a matter of law.” Maryland v. Universal Elections, Inc., 862 F. Supp. 2d 457, 462 (D. Md.
2012) (citing and quoting Custer v. Pan Am. Life Ins. Co., 12 F.3d 410, 416 (4th Cir.1993)).
In order to prove a claim of negligence against a defendant in a slip and fall case, a
plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that the defendant
breached that duty. A store owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care “‘to protect the invitee
from injury caused by an unreasonable risk’ that the invitee would be unlikely to perceive in the
exercise of ordinary care for his or her own safety.” Tennant v. Shoppers Food Warehouse Md.
Corp., 115 Md. App. 381, 388 (1997) (quoting Casper v. Charles F. Smith & Son, Inc., 316 Md.
573, 582 (1989)). “The burden is upon the customer to show that the proprietor. . . had actual or
constructive knowledge that the dangerous condition existed.” Rehn v. Westfield Am., 153 Md.
App. 586, 593 (2003) (citing Moulden v. Greenbelt Consumer Servs., Inc., 239 Md. 229, 232
(1965) (internal quotations omitted)). Here, there is nothing in the record to suggest that Target
had actual or constructive notice of—much less caused—the allegedly hazardous condition that
caused Umheni’s fall. Even when the Court views all reasonable inferences in a light most
favorable to Umheni, see Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. at 587, there are no material facts that are
genuinely in dispute, entitling Target to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp., 477
U.S. at 322. Accordingly, the uncontroverted facts in the record require the Court to find for
Target on Count I.
In Count II, Umheni alleges that Target was negligent in hiring, training, and supervising
the employees who maintained the premises. ECF No. 2 at 6. Umheni’s Complaint, however,
only contain bare assertions and legal conclusions. She does not present material facts that
genuinely dispute the facts outlined in Target’s Motion. Therefore, for this reason and those
described in Target’s Motion, the Court will also find for Target as to Count II. See ECF No. 35
at 10–14; see also Felty, 818 F.2d at 1128 (requiring the court only rely on facts supported in the
record when deciding a motion for summary judgment, not mere assertions made in the
Accordingly, the Court will grant summary judgment for the Defendant as to both counts.
A separate order follows.
Date: March 30, 2017
ROGER W. TITUS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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