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Deykina v. Chattin

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 15, 2014

NELYA DEYKINA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES CHATTIN, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

ALLYNE R. ROSS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Nelya Deykina brings this diversity suit seeking damages for personal injuries that she sustained when she slipped and fell on a staircase at premises owned by defendant James Chattin. Now before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed.[1] Plaintiff is a resident of Brooklyn, New York. Dep. of Nelya Deykina ("Pl. Dep."), Dkt. #32, Ex. C, at 4. Defendant is a resident of Warminster, Pennsylvania. Dep. of James Chattin ("Def. Dep."), Dkt. #32, Ex. D, at 4. Defendant owns a house in the Pocono Mountains located at 657 Old Stage Road, Albrightsville, Pennsylvania. Def. Dep. 7. Defendant purchased the house with his wife in 2007, and they use it as a vacation home and rental property. Id. at 13-14.

Plaintiff's daughter Olga Deykina, who is also a resident of Brooklyn, rented defendant's property in the Poconos for the month of July 2011. Pl. Dep. 7-8, 13. Olga Deykina and defendant signed a "Rental Agreement" specifying that seven adults and three children would reside at the premises from July 1, 2011, through July 31, 2011. Decl. of Kelly E. Wright ("Wright Decl."), Dkt. #32, Ex. E, at 3. A provision of the rental agreement entitled "Repairs" states: "In the event of any problem, please call the Property Owner immediately. We will make a reasonable effort to have any necessary repairs made as soon as possible." Id. at 2. Plaintiff testified that her daughter rented the property for use by family members and friends. Pl. Dep. 14-17. Plaintiff went to the home on July 2, 2011, with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Id. at 16-17. Plaintiff testified that she was invited to join the family to help with babysitting her granddaughter and did not pay any portion of the rent. Id. at 18.

On the morning of July 5, 2011, at approximately 9 a.m., plaintiff fell while going down the stairs connecting the first and second floors of the house. Id. at 12, 18. The stairs have a wall and handrail on the left side going down and are open on the right side. Id. at 23-24. Plaintiff testified that she was holding onto the handrail with her left hand, and when she was about "two or three" steps from the bottom, she "slipped" and turned around to try to grab the handrail. Id. at 32-33, 41. Plaintiff "wasn't able to reach" the handrail, then she fell and hit her back against the bottom step and hit her head against the wall. Id. at 33.

After plaintiff fell, family friends who were staying at the house came to help plaintiff back up the stairs. Id. at 44. Plaintiff testified that she felt "severe pain" in her back and was not able to lie down or sit down. Id. at 45-46. Either that evening or early the next morning, plaintiff went to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. Id. at 45-46. After performing an MRI and x-rays, hospital staff told plaintiff that she had a "compression fracture of the spine" with a broken piece of vertebrae and gave her pain medication. Id. at 47. After plaintiff returned to her home in Brooklyn in August 2001, plaintiff's primary care doctor referred her to Coney Island Hospital, where multiple surgeons told her that surgery on her back could not be performed. Id. at 49-51. Plaintiff also went to a physical therapist in Brooklyn "three or four times, " but he told her that he was unable to help her. Id. at 52-53. Plaintiff continues to experience "bad pain" in her lower back that is "almost constant." Id. at 56-57. Plaintiff uses a cane, cannot stand for more than an hour or walk more than two or three blocks without resting, cannot sleep on her side, and takes painkillers when needed. Id. at 54-58. Plaintiff testified that she never experienced difficulty walking or used a cane prior to the fall on the stairs. Id. at 26-27.

Defendant testified that the house was already constructed on the site when he purchased the property in 2007, and no governmental or private entity conducted an inspection when he purchased the home. Def. Dep. 8-9, 49. He stated that he has made no major renovations to the house since he purchased it, and specifically that he has made no repairs or alterations to the stairs or handrail. Id. at 9, 24, 44-45. Defendant testified that he never received any complaints about the handrail or was aware of anyone having problems using the handrail prior to July 6, 2011. Id. at 50. He also stated that Olga Deykina had not made any complaints to him about conditions on the property prior to July 6, 2011. Id. at 55-56. Defendant never went to the property while Olga Deykina and her family were staying there and never met plaintiff. Id. at 59.

On May 29, 2012, plaintiff brought this suit pursuant to the court's diversity jurisdiction. Compl., Dkt. #1. Plaintiff alleges that defendant "did cause, permit and/or allow a dangerous, hazardous, defective, unsafe and/or unfit condition to become, remain and/or exist at premises located at 657 Old Stage Road, Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, more specifically, the interior staircase." Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff asserts that she slipped and fell on the staircase "due to lack of handrails on either side and unevenly constructed steps" and sustained "severe, serious and personal injuries" as a result. Id. ¶¶ 5, 8. Plaintiff seeks damages "in an amount that exceeds the monetary jurisdiction of all lower Courts which otherwise might have had jurisdiction over this matter." Id. ¶ 11. Following discovery, including depositions of plaintiff and defendant and expert reports by engineers for each side, defendant brought the instant motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #32.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

"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). The function of the court is not to resolve disputed factual issues but to determine whether there is a genuine issue to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "While genuineness runs to whether disputed factual issues can reasonably be resolved in favor of either party, materiality runs to whether the dispute matters, i.e., whether it concerns facts that can affect the outcome under the applicable substantive law." McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks and ellipses omitted).

In assessing whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court considers "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any other firsthand information including but not limited to affidavits." Nnebe v. Daus, 644 F.3d 147, 156 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting In re Bennett Funding Grp., Inc., 336 F.3d 94, 99 (2d Cir. 2003)); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party carries the burden of proving that there is no genuine dispute respecting any material fact and "may obtain summary judgment by showing that little or no evidence may be found in support of the nonmoving party's case." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223-24 (2d Cir. 1994). Once this burden is met, in order to avoid the entry of summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." LaBounty v. Coughlin, 137 F.3d 68, 73 (2d Cir. 1998). ...


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