Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harper v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

May 3, 2019

DEBBIE HARPER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. United States District Judge

         I. Background

         This is a Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) case arising out of a fall at the United States Post Office in Chester, West Virginia (“the Post Office”). The plaintiff, Debbie Harper (“Harper”), filed this action under the FTCA against the United States of America and the United States Postal Service (“Postal Service”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff and defendant Hiler Buffalo, LLC, by their respective counsel, filed a joint motion to consolidate Harper v. Hiler Buffalo, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:17CV156, with the above-styled action, Harper v. United States Postal Service, et al., Civil Action No. 5:17CV12, pursuant to Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This Court entered an order granting the parties' joint motion to consolidate. ECF No. 20.

         At this time, following this Court's order granting the Postal Service's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 7) and order of dismissal following the parties' compromise and settlement in the related civil action against defendant Hiler Buffalo, LLC (“Hiler Buffalo”) (ECF No. 18 in Civil Action 5:17CV156), only the plaintiff's claims against defendant United States of America remain.

         Now pending before the Court is defendant United States of America's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56 (ECF No. 51). Plaintiff filed a response to defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 63) and defendant filed its reply to plaintiff's response (ECF No. 64). Defendant's motion for summary judgment is now fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         For the reasons that follow, defendant United States of America's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 51) is granted.

         II. Facts

         Plaintiff's injury occurred inside the United States Post Office in Chester, West Virginia, which was owned and operated by Hiler Buffalo and leased to defendant United States of America to conduct business of providing postal services. Plaintiff alleges she was walking up the interior steps when she fell and suffered physical injury as a result of crashing through a glass wall. ECF No. 1 at 2. The glass wall was located at the top of the stairs adjacent to the door at the entrance of the Post Office lobby. ECF No. 52-1 at 45. Harper cannot explain how she fell or recall the details of the incident, but alleges in the complaint that “she was flung through the glass wall due to the unsafe condition of the interior steps handrail.” ECF No. 52 at 2; ECF No. 1 at 2.

         III. Contentions of the Parties

         Defendant United States of America filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 51) and memorandum in support (ECF No. 52) and asserts that plaintiff offers nothing but her own unsupported speculation to explain how she was injured or how the actions or omissions of any federal government actor caused her injury. ECF No. 52 at 2-3. Further, defendant argues that plaintiff has not and cannot establish that the United States of America had any duty to repair or replace the handrail or the glass panel at the Post Office. Id. at 4. Therefore, the defendant contends, plaintiff has not identified and cannot establish any genuine factual dispute, except by relying on unfounded conjecture. Id. at 6. Ultimately, defendant asserts that plaintiff has not and cannot establish various essential elements necessary to support a negligence claim against the United States of America, particularly under the narrowly tailored FTCA exception to the general rule that the United States cannot be sued and, therefore, any disputed facts are fundamentally immaterial. Id. at 5. Accordingly, defendant United States requests that this Court grant summary judgment in its favor.

         Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to defendant's motion (ECF No. 63). In applying the factors used to determine whether a defendant in a premises liability case met his or her burden of reasonable care under the circumstances to all non-trespassing entrants, as cited in Dillon v. United States, No. 5:12-CV-09314, 2015 WL 2145116 (S.D. W.Va. May 7, 2015) (citing Syl. pt. 6, Mallet v. Pickens, 522 S.E.2d 436 ( W.Va. 1999)), plaintiff contends that defendant United States of America, breached its duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. Id. at 1. Plaintiff contends that this Court should deny defendant's motion for summary judgment and “permit the trier of fact to determine at trial the applicable standard of care and whether the defendant USA has met its burden of reasonable care to business invitees such as the plaintiff.” ECF No. 63 at 6.

         Defendant United States filed a reply to plaintiff's response in opposition to its motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 64) and asserts that plaintiff cannot establish essential elements necessary to support a viable negligence claim. Defendant contends that plaintiff has “abandoned her original theory that a faulty handrail flung her up a stairway and propelled her into a glass panel” and asserts that plaintiff's “newly formulated theory that the United States of America had an independent duty to replace the glass panel with safety glass is not justiciable pursuant to the FTCA.” ECF No. 64 at 1, 3. Further, defendant contends that “Harper never administratively alleged that the United States of America had any independent obligation to replace the glass panel with safety glass, ” and “[b]ecause Harper did not properly present this allegation in the required administrative claim, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to address this theory.” Id. at 4. Moreover, defendant asserts that “[e]ven if Harper had properly presented her allegation in the required administrative claim, the FTCA discretionary function exception bars Harper's claim that the United States had a duty to replace the glass panel with safety glass.” Id. at 5. Lastly, defendant maintains that Harper cannot support her alleged negligence claim against the United States and renews its request for summary judgment in its favor.

         IV. A ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.