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Kimble v. CR Operating Co. Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 3, 2018




         Defendant, Apple Creek Estates, LLC, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 46). Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition (Dkt. No. 56) and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 57). The motion is now at issue.

         I. Background

         In early 2005, Apple Creek Estates, LLC, became the owner of Apple Creek Apartments. On January 5, 2005, Apple Creek Estates, LLC, executed a Property Management Agreement with CR Operating Company, Inc., d/b/a Apple Creek Estates and/or Apple Creek Apartments, hereafter referred to as CR Operating Company. On March 15, 2015, Andrew Kimble leased Unit 237 of Apple Creek Apartments. On January 25, 2016, Andrew Kimble was standing on his balcony. As Kimble leaned against the balcony railing, the balcony railing gave way and Kimble fell from the second story balcony and landed on the ground. Kimble suffered various injuries. At the time of Kimble's fall, an independent contractor, Armor Siding, LLC, was performing repairs and renovations to the Apple Creek Apartment buildings. As a result of the fall and subsequent injuries, Kimble brought suit and the instant action commenced.

         Defendant's Motion argues that Apple Creek Estates, LLC, does not owe a duty to Plaintiff and, as a result, is not liable to Plaintiff for the injuries he sustained. Plaintiff argues that the Property Management Agreement does not lease the subject premises to CR Operating Company and therefore Apple Creek Estates, LLC, owes a duty to Plaintiff.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A key policy goal and primary principle of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 sets the standard for summary judgment:

         A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment 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).

         Summary judgment is appropriate “after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). It is also well established that the “party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion . . . which it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. (“As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.) “When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (footnote omitted). “In its review, the Court construes the record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Garratt v. Walker, 164 F.3d 1249, 1251 (10th Cir. 1998).

         III. Analysis

         In order for a negligence claim to progress, the following elements must be established:

(1) existence of a duty on the part of the defendant to protect plaintiff from injury; (2) defendant's breach of the duty; and (3) injury to plaintiff proximately resulting therefrom. The threshold requirement in any case based on negligence is to establish the existence of a duty, for there can be no negligence in the absence of a defendant's duty to the plaintiff. Accordingly, the question of whether a duty exists to a particular plaintiff on the part of an alleged tortfeasor is properly a question of law for the court.

Scott v. Archon Group, L.P., 2008 OK 45, ¶ 17, 191 P.3d 1207, 1211. In the premises liability law arena, “the duty of care which an owner or occupier of land has toward one who comes upon his or her land and is injured because of the condition of the premises, varies with the status occupied by the entrant.” Id. at ¬∂ 18, 1211. This Court's analysis will make a ‚Äúdetermination of the entrant's status-based classification under traditional common law terms-trespasser, licensee or invitee-[which] is therefore ...

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