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O'Boyle v. Benchmark Conference Centers of West Virginia

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

June 12, 2019

THOMAS F. O'BOYLE, Plaintiff,
v.
BENCHMARK CONFERENCE CENTERS OF WEST VIRGINIA, d/b/a STONEWALL RESORT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 21]

          THOMAS S. KLEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant Benchmark Conference Centers of West Virginia, d/b/a Stonewall Resort (“Stonewall Resort”) [Dkt. No. 21]. Plaintiff, Thomas F. O'Boyle (“O'Boyle”), filed a response in opposition to the motion [Dkt. No. 24], and Defendant filed a reply [Dkt. No. 26]. The matter is now ripe for decision. For the reasons stated, the Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff O'Boyle resides at 107 Hoodridge Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15228 [Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 1]. Defendant Stonewall Resort is a West Virginia limited liability company that is duly organized and existing under the laws of West Virginia with an office and/or place of business located at 940 Resort Drive, Roanoke, West Virginia 26447 [Id. at ¶ 3]. The Benchmark Management Company, LLC, a Texas limited liability company, is the sole member of Stonewall Resort [Id.]. This matter is before the Court on complete diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff and Defendant, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 [Id.].

         From July 9, 2017, through July 13, 2017, O'Boyle was a patron of Stonewall Resort [Dkt. No. 22 at 1]. On July 10, 2017, while a guest at Stonewall Resort, O'Boyle was riding a Specialized Roubaix road bicycle on the resort premises when he hit a speed bump which caused him to lose control of his bicycle and crash [Dkt. No. 24 at 1-2]. O'Boyle was thrown over his bicycle's handlebars and skidded down the road on the right side of his body [Id. at 2]. O'Boyle sustained injuries as a result of the crash, including a gash on his right leg which removed the skin from his knee to his ankle [Id.]. Plaintiff also received injuries to his solar plexus, resulting in bruising to his stomach and torso, as well as his elbow [Id.]. O'Boyle alleges that the crash was so violent that his specialized bicycle was a total loss [Id.]. He further alleges that the replacement value of his bicycle is $3, 800 [Id.].

         Plaintiff claims that the speed bump at issue was a worn, hard plastic barrier that was secured in place with bolts [Id. at 2]. O'Boyle further claims that the speed bump was steeply angled on each side [Dkt. No. 1 at ¶12]. Plaintiff's expert witness, Ronald W. Eck, P.E., Ph.D., is an expert on matters related to roadways and traffic control devices, and explained the difference between a speed bump and a speed hump as follows:

[A speed bump is] a raised pavement area across a roadway and generally has a height of three to six inches with a length of one to three feet [. . .] [Speed bumps] cause significant driver discomfort at typical residential speeds and generally result in vehicles slowing to 5 mph or less at the bump [. . .] [I]n general, bicycles, motorcycles, and other vehicles with rigid or near-rigid suspension systems are more susceptible to damage and a loss of control from bumps than vehicles with flexible suspensions.
In contrast to a bump, a speed hump is a raised area in the roadway pavement surface extending transversely across the travel way. They normally have a maximum height of 3 to 4 inches with a travel length of approximately 12 feet. Within typical residential speed ranges, humps create a gentle vehicle rocking motion that causes the driver some discomfort and results in most vehicles slowing to 15 mph or less at each hump [. . .] [S]peed humps represent a lesser risk to vehicles with rigid or near-rigid suspensions than do speed bumps.

[Dkt. No. 24 at 2].

         According to O'Boyle, the Defendant had no signage on the road or next to the road to warn of the speed bump [Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 13]. Plaintiff also alleges that on its website and elsewhere, Stonewall Resort references biking as one of its main recreational activities to be enjoyed by guests of the resort, and that it was foreseeable that patrons would be biking on the road where speed bumps were placed [Id. at ¶ 15].

         Following his bicycle crash on July 10, 2017, O'Boyle returned to the resort lobby to seek medical attention [Dkt. No. 24 at 3]. The resort did not have a medical professional available, provided no medical assistance to the Plaintiff, and did not have a first aid kit available for guests [Id.]. O'Boyle used the resort shuttle to return to his cottage and tend to his own injuries [Id.]. Plaintiff claims that his injuries were significant and that he sought medical treatment at a nearby urgent care facility in Weston, West Virginia [Id.]. At the urgent care facility, O'Boyle was prescribed antibiotic by the physician on duty and directed to follow up with his doctor [Id.].

         On July 14, 2017, O'Boyle was treated by his hematologist, Dr. Robert Volkin of UPMC [Id.]. Volkin examined Plaintiff's swollen right leg and ordered a Venous Doppler Test to check for blood clots [Id.; Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 19]. The test showed a partially occlusive thrombus in the right popliteal vein which Plaintiff claims developed as a result of the injury he sustained to his leg at Stonewall Resort [Dkt. No. 24 at 4]. Plaintiff also alleges that Volkin informed him that he will likely have chronic blood clotting issues for the rest of his life, and that he was prescribed Xarelto, a medication which causes severe side effects [Id.]. According to Plaintiff, his leg wound took approximately six (6) weeks to heal and caused him considerable pain and suffering [Id.].

         On February 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this matter alleging negligence against Defendant [Dkt. No. 1]. O'Boyle asserts that Defendant failed to properly and safely maintain the resort for use by guests, customers, and business invitees; installed a needless and dangerous speed bump on the property of the resort and created a dangerous condition; failed to warn guests, customers, and business invitees of the dangerous condition with signage on the road or next to the road which would have marked the presence of a dangerous speed bump, in violation of the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (“MUTCD”); caused O'Boyle severe and serious injuries; failed to have a medical professional and/or first aid kit available to guests; and failed to provide assistance to Plaintiff following his injuries [Id. at ¶ 28].

         Defendant Stonewall Resort denies that it was negligent and contends that it maintained the premises in a safe condition for its guests [Dkt. No. 3 at ¶¶ 20, 21]. With its motion for summary judgment, Stonewall Resort further contends that Plaintiff cannot prevail on his negligence claim because the speed bump that allegedly caused O'Boyle to crash his bicycle is “entirely within the purview of” West Virginia's “Open and Obvious Doctrine, ” and his claim is “barred by law” [Dkt. No. 22 at 5]. Defendant asserts that the open and obvious doctrine is ...


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