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Billings v. R.J. Grondin & Sons, Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

March 2, 2018

NORMA BILLINGS and NORMAN BILLINGS Plaintiffs
v.
R.J. GRONDIN & SONS, SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO. and GGP-MAINE MALL, LLC Defendants

          Attorneys for Plaintiffs: Neil Shankman, Esq. Shankman & Associates Jeanne Sund, Esq. Robinson Kriger & McCallum

          Attorney for Defendant RJ Grondin & Sons: Jonathan Brogan, Esq. Norman Hanson & Detroy

          Attorney for Defendants Sears Roebuck and Co. and GGP Maine Mall LLC: David Szewczyk, Esq. David F. Szewczyk, PA

          ORDER ON R.J. GRONDIN'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          A. M. Horton, Justice.

         Defendant R. J. Grondin & Sons ["Grondin"] has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, contending that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it owed no duty, in tort or contract or otherwise, to Plaintiffs Norma and Norman Billings. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion, and Grondin has filed a reply memorandum.

         The court elects to decide the Motion without oral argument. See M.R. Civ. P. 7(b)(7).

         Background

         The material facts are undisputed for purposes of the Motion:

         Norma and Norman Billings are husband and wife. On the afternoon of January 13, 2015, they went to the Maine Mall, which houses a collection of retail stores, including a store operated by Defendant Sears, Roebuck & Co. Sears leases the store from the Mall owner, Defendant GGP-Maine Mall, LLC.

         As the Billings were walking on the sidewalk toward the outside entrance to the Sears store, Norma Billings slipped and fell within just a few feet of the entrance, because the sidewalk at that place was coated with patches of ice that had a dusting of recent snow that had fallen the day before. As a result of her fall, Norma Billings sustained a serious injury to her wrist and hand and underwent extensive medical treatment.

         At all material times, Grondin was the snow and ice removal contractor for the Maine Mall, under a written Snow and Ice Removal Services Agreement dated October 1, 2013. See Exhibit A to Grondin's Motion for Summary Judgment. The contract imposes a wide range of obligations on Grondin, including monitoring weather conditions, and taking "all steps necessary in accordance with high quality standards and best practices to ensure that the [Maine Mall] Property is free of ice and snow . . ." See Exhibit l to Snow and Ice Removal Services Agreement, section B. On being notified of the need for snow and ice removal, Grondin is contractually obligated to use best efforts to commence removal within one hour and to complete removal within three hours. See id., section C.

         Grondin's records indicate that it conducted snow and ice removal operations on January 12, 2015, the day before Norma Billings fell, but are unclear as to whether any operations occurred on the day of her fall.

         Standard of Review

         For purposes of its Motion, Grondin does not dispute Plaintiffs' claim that it failed to make the sidewalk safe for persons entering the Sears store. Instead, Grondin argues that, even assuming the facts are as Plaintiffs allege, Grondin cannot be held liable to them, either in tort or in contract, as a matter of law. To obtain summary judgment, Grondin must show that ...


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