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Van Syckel v. 800 Northern Corp.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

May 11, 2016

DONALD VAN SYCKEL and DONALD VAN SYCKEL o/b/o MOLLY VAN SYCKEL, Plaintiffs
v.
800 NORTHERN CORP., Defendant

          ROBERT LEVINE ESQ.

          MADELINE MALISA ESQ.

          MARTICA DOUGLAS ESQ.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Nancy Mills Justice.

         Before the court is defendant 800 Northern Corporation's motion for summary judgment in plaintiff Donald Van Syckel's negligence action. Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of himself and on behalf of his late wife, Molly Van Syckel. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         FACTS

         On January 10, 2013, plaintiff and Ms. Van Syckel went to the law office of Petrucelli, Martin and Haddow at 2 Monument Square in Portland. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶¶ 1-3.) They entered the building through the parking garage door. (Id. ¶ 2.) They met with Ms. Van Syckel's attorney and picked up a settlement check arising from a prior slip and fall accident. (Id. ¶ 4.) The prior slip and fall accident occurred when Ms. Van Syckel fell while leaving a store in Scarborough in 2009. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         Approximately one hour after they arrived, plaintiff and Ms. Van Syckel exited the building through the same parking garage door.[1] (Id. ¶ 6.) There is a single step or landing between the garage door and the garage floor. (Pl.'s Addfl S.M.F. ¶ 29.) Ms. Van Syckel fell outside the door. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff did not see her fall because he was walking in front of her. (Id. ¶ 8.) However, when he turned around she was on the ground.[2] (Id. ¶ 9.) She was lying with her feet toward the door and her head pointed away from the door. (Pl.'s Addt'l S.M.F. ¶ 18.) Her feet were approximately three to five feet from the step. (Id. ¶ 19.) No part of her body had landed on the step. (Id.)

         At the time of Ms. Van Syckel's fall, the doorway was free from obstructions, including water and ice. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 10.) The rise of the step was painted yellow and read "WATCH YOUR STEP." (Id., ¶ 12.) The top of the tread was not painted yellow and was not marked with a warning or a conspicuous border. (Id. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Addt'l S.M.F. ¶ 23.) The step and the garage floor were a similar color.[3] (Pl.'s Addt'l S.M.F. ¶ 22.) There was no railing on the step. (Id. ¶ 24.) Prior to Ms. Van Syckel's fall, there had been no other reported falls at this location. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 11.)

         The parties dispute whether Ms. Van Syckel suffered a seizure before her fall. Plaintiff claims she did not.[4] (Pl.'s Addt'l S.M.F. ¶ 26.) Defendant claims that Ms. Van Syckel's medical report from the day of the accident indicates that she suffered a "syncopal episode" and that she had suffered a "grand mal seizure" approximately one year earlier. (Def.'s Reply S.M.F. ¶ 26.)

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on July 6, 2015. Plaintiff alleges two causes of action: count I, negligence; and count II, loss of consortium. Defendant moved for summary judgment on February 3, 2016. Plaintiff filed an opposition on February 22, 2016. Defendant filed a reply on March 7, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if 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." M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and there is a genuine issue when there is sufficient evidence for a fact-finder to choose between competing versions of the fact." Mcllroy v. Gibson's Apple Orchard,2012 ME 59, ΒΆ 7, 43 A.3d 948 (citation omitted). "Even when one party's version of the facts appears more credible and persuasive to the court, any genuine factual dispute must be resolved through ...


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