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Smagala v. Embassy Suites Management LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 14, 2020

JENELLE SMAGALA, Plaintiff,
v.
EMBASSY SUITES MANAGEMENT LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge.

         Janelle Smagala fell down the stairs in her two-level suite at the Embassy Suites. She contends that Embassy Suites is liable for her resulting injuries because it negligently failed to make the stairs reasonably safe. Embassy Suites has moved for summary judgment. Dkt. [65]. For the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED.

         I.

         Facts and Background

         Because Embassy Suites has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a), the Court views and recites the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         Janelle Smagala married Timothy Junk on April 15, 2017. Dkt. 67-2 at 3 (Smagala Dep. at 10). Around midnight-after the ceremony, dinner, and reception-Ms. Smagala went to their two-level suite at the Embassy Suites. Dkt. 86-2 at 9-10 (Smagala Dep. at 40-41). Without going upstairs, she dropped a few things off and left to meet friends at a restaurant. Id. at 9-12 (Smagala Dep. at 40-43).

         Ms. Smagala and Mr. Junk returned to the suite about 2:00 or 2:30 a.m. Id. at 13 (Smagala Dep. at 48). Ms. Smagala used the downstairs bathroom, then went upstairs. Id. at 15, 17 (Smagala Dep. at 59, 62). She had to pull her wedding dress tightly around her because “the steps were pretty steep.” Id. at 15 (Smagala Dep. at 59). She used the handrail “and just went really slow.” Id. She then changed out of her dress and went to bed. Id.

         About 4:00 a.m., Ms. Smagala woke up, needing to use the bathroom. Id. at 17 (Smagala Dep. at 62); dkt. 67-5 at 14 (Junk Dep. at 54). She was “a little disoriented” since she'd just woken up, so instead of using the upstairs bathroom, she headed toward the downstairs bathroom that she had already used. Dkt. 86-2 at 17 (Smagala Dep. at 62). At the top of the stairs, she looked for a light switch, but the room was “really dark” and she couldn't find one. Id. She instead found the top of the stairs and went down one step, while still looking for a light switch. Id. at 17-18, 20 (Smagala Dep. at 62-63, 67). Then, her “right foot slipped right off the top of the top tread” and she fell to a landing partway down the staircase. Id. at 17-18 (Smagala Dep. at 62-63, 73- 74); dkt. 67-2 at 19. Ms. Smagala called for help and Mr. Junk turned on a light. Dkt. 67-2 at 19 (Smagala Dep. at 73-74). Ms. Smagala tried to get up, but she fell again the same way down the rest of the stairs. Id. She suffered wrist, hand, finger, and shoulder injuries. Id. at 20-21 (Smagala Dep. at 80- 84).

         Ms. Smagala filed this action alleging that Embassy Suites was negligent in failing to make the suite's stairs reasonably safe. Dkt. 1-2. Embassy Suites removed the case to this Court and moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 1; dkt.

         II.

         Applicable Law

         Summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party must inform the court “of the basis for its motion” and specify evidence demonstrating “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings” and identify “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted). Indiana substantive law ...


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