ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
W. Clifford, Active Retired Justice
Sunday River Estate Owners' Association has moved for
summary judgment in this action brought by the plaintiff
Paula Cox .
Cox is the co-owner of a condominium building located at 53
Sunday River Road in Bethel. Located next to plaintiffs
building and on the same lot is a second condominium
building. Both buildings are comprised of four units and each
unit owner is a member of the Sunday River Estates
November 16, 2011, plaintiff visited unit six of her
condominium building for the first time in a number of years.
In front of the entryway to unit six is a six-square-foot
wooden box containing gravel and stone which acts as a step
from the ground to the entryway. The wood beams enclosing the
gravel landing extend 1 and 3/4 inches above the gravel; the
distance from the top of the wood beam to the entryway is 8
and 3/8 inches. Defendant owns the land under the landing.
had never seen the gravel landing prior to her visit that
day, but it was "very clearly" visible when she
approached unit six. Plaintiff had no difficulty ascending
the gravel landing and stepping inside of unit six. Fifteen
minutes later, however, plaintiff fell as she stepped outside
of the entry way as she attempted to leave the unit. As a
result of her fall, plaintiff suffered injuries to her left
elbow, wrist, and hand. Plaintiff does not know how she fell
or what caused her to fall; she only knows that she
"step[ped] out the door one time-put one foot out,
walked out the door, and that was it, [she] was on the
ground." Plaintiff does not remember if it was the wood
or gravel portion of the landing that she stepped onto.
has brought this action against the defendant Association,
seeking to recover for her injuries. Defendant contends that
there is no liability here, and has filed a motion for
National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code 101
standards set the maximum stair riser height at seven inches.
Joelle Corey-Whitman, a building inspector and code
enforcement officer, believes that the height from the gravel
landing to the entryway was too high to safely navigate.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate if the record reflects that there is
no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled
to a judgment as a matter of law. 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." Lougee Conservancy v.
CitiMortgage, Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶ 11, 48 A.3d 774
(quotation omitted). To survive a defendant's motion for
summary judgment, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie
case for every element of the plaintiffs cause of action.
See Savell v. Buddy, 2016 ME 139, ¶ 18, 147
A.3d 1179. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the
court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Dyer v. Dep't of Transp., 2008
ME 106, ¶ 14, 951 A.2d 821.
order to prevail on a premises liability claim for
negligence, plaintiff must present evidence sufficient to
allow a finding that defendant owed her a duty to exercise
reasonable care, breached that duty, and that defendant's
breach caused plaintiffs injuries. See Estate of Smith v.
Salveseen, 2016 ME 100, ¶ 19, 143 A.3d 780.
Defendant contends that plaintiff has failed to establish a
prima facie case for the elements of breach and causation.
concedes that, as the owner of the land, it owed plaintiff, a
lawful entrant upon the land, and a duty to exercise
reasonable care to protect plaintiff from dangerous
conditions of which it knew or reasonably should have known
existed; see also Durham v. HTH Corp.,2005 ME 53,
¶ 8, 870 A.2d 577. Defendant, however, contends that
plaintiff has failed to establish evidence showing that the
entryway was dangerous or that the defendant knew or should
have known the entryway was dangerous. Plaintiff contends
that, because the height between the gravel landing and the
entryway was greater than the seven-inch standard set by the
National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code, she
has met her burden to establish a prima facie ...