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Young v. Morrison Management Specialists, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 1, 2017

Thelma Young, Plaintiff,
v.
Morrison Management Specialists, Inc. and Crothall Healthcare Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          RAMON E. REYES, JR. United States Magistrate Judge

         On June 13, 2014, Thelma Young (“Young”) commenced a personal injury action in New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, against Morrison Management Specialists, Inc. (“Morrison”). (Dkt. No. 1). Following removal to Federal Court, (Dkt. No. 1), Young amended her complaint, naming Crothall Heatlhcare, Inc. (“Crothall”) as an additional defendant, (Dkt. No. 15 (“Amended Complaint”)). Morrison and Crothall, (collectively the “Defendants”), filed separate motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Dkt. No. 27 and 28). For the following reasons, the Defendants' motions are granted in full.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Young was employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Terrance Cardinal Cook Health Care Center (“TCC”) in New York City. (Dkt. No. 27-3 (Crothall Rule 56.1 Statement (“Cr. R. 56.1”)) at ¶ 1). On December 1, 2012, Young slipped and fell in the TCC women's locker room, resulting in physical injury. (Cr. R. 56.1 ¶ 2). Young commenced a personal injury action against the Defendants, alleging her slip-and-fall was caused by the Defendants' negligence. (Amended Complaint ¶ 1). The Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. (Dkt. No. 27 and 28). In support of their motions, the parties have submitted Rule 56.1 Statements of undisputed facts, party and non-party depositions, and additional relevant exhibits. (Dkt. No. 27-2, 27-3, 28-2, 28-3, 31-1, 31-2, 32-1, 32-2). Based on the evidence submitted by the parties, and their Rule 56.1 Statements, the undisputed facts are as follows:

         I. The Parties

         In 2007, Crothall entered into a contract with TCC to provide housekeeping and linen services, (Cr. R. 56.1 ¶ 15), which was renewed four months prior to Young's accident, (Id. at ¶ 17). Under the terms of the contract as it existed in December 2012, (the “Contract”), Crothall was required to maintain six employees at TCC. Id. at ¶ 19. While these employees' precise responsibilities are in dispute, the parties agree that actual cleaning services were provided by TCC staff under Crothall's training and supervision. (Dkt. 32-2 (Young Response to Cr. R. 56.1 Statement (“Pl. Res. Cr. R. 56.1”)) at ¶¶ 20, b3). Responsibility for hiring, firing, disciplining, and paying TCC housekeeping employees is similarly disputed. Id. at ¶ 21. In addition to allocating staffing and supervising responsibility, the Contract provided schedules for specific housekeeping services. Id. at ¶ 18. Under Schedule B, the locker room was to be cleaned seven times per week, although no specific cleaning times were mandated. (Dkt. No. 27-2 (Declaration of Charles C. Eblen in Support of Crothall (“Crothall Decl.”), Ex. B. - the Contract) at 49; Pl. Res. Cr. R. 56.1 ¶ 24).

         Like Crothall, Morrison provided services at TCC at the time of the accident pursuant to the terms of a contract. (Dkt. No. 28-3 (Morrison Rule 56.1 Statement (“Mr. R. 56.1”)) at ¶ 15). Under the terms of its contract, Morrison provided food services at TCC. Id. at ¶ 15. Unlike Crothall, Morrison hired its own staff rather than utilizing TCC employees. (Dkt. No. 28-2 (Declaration of Charles C. Eblen in Support of Morrison (“Morrison Decl.”), Ex C. - Agreement between Morrison and TCC) at 1). Morrison provided its staff free meals in the TCC cafeteria. (Dkt. No. 31-1 (Declaration of S. Joonho Hong in Opposition to Morrison (“Decl. in Mr. Opp.”)) Ex. C - Deposition Testimony of Wanda Manzueta at 70:9-23). Whether Morrison permitted its employees to eat lunch in the locker room remains in dispute. (Morrison Decl. - Ex B. Deposition Testimony of Mitchell Jayson at 64:10-66:25).

         II. The Accident

         On December 1, 2012, Young was scheduled to work the 3pm - 11pm shift at TCC. (Cr. R. 56.1 ¶ 2). Upon arriving at work, she went to the women's locker room in the basement of the main building, which is accessible by hospital staff as well as by Crothall and Morrison employees. Id. at ¶ 3-4. Once there she changed into her work cloths, consisting of hospital scrubs and Crocs. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 5. After changing, Young walked toward the bathroom when her left foot slipped out from under her, causing her to fall backwards and strike her head and back on the floor. Id. at ¶ 7.

         According to Young, her slip-and-fall was caused by a greasy or oily substance on the locker room floor. (Amended Complaint ¶¶ 1, 18). While she never saw the substance that caused her fall, (Cr. R. 56.1 ¶ 9), she testified to finding a grease or oil stain on her clothing. Id. at ¶ 8. She further testified that she “could feel the grease on [her] hands” while lying on the floor and found additional grease or oil on her buttocks, lower pants, and shoes. (Morrison Decl. Ex A - Deposition Testimony of Thelma Young (“Young”) at 50:3-5; 52:4-7). The source of the offending substance is in dispute. Young claims the substance was dropped by Morrison employees, who were eating lunch in the locker room, between 11:00 and 11:30am. Id. at 78:6-79:14. She basis this contention on a conversation she had with a co-worker, Michelle Winter (“Winters”), one or two months after the accident. Id. at 134:21-25.

         During her deposition, Winter initially testified that she did not recall the accident. (Morrison Decl. Ex. B. - Deposition Testimony of Michelle Winter (“Winter”) 11:21-12:3) (“Q: Do you recall observing an accident involving Ms. Young? A: I don't remember that. Q: Do you remember observing an accident involving someone slipping in the women's locker room? A: I don't remember.”). Winter also denied seeing anyone eating in the locker room. Id. at 14:8-15:5 (“Q: On or before December 1, 2012, had you ever observed anyone eating lunch in the locker room? A: I don't recall that now….Q: Do you recall telling anyone that you had seen staff from the kitchen eating greasy food from the locker room at any time? A: No, I don't remember that.”).

         Ultimately, after having her memory refreshed, Winter testified to being present at the time of Young's accident - but professed she had not witnessed it - and to seeing someone drinking a beverage in the locker room - but not to food or to a spill. Id. at 33:12-34:3; 63:9-11. She acknowledged that people, including Morrison staff, often ate in the locker room but did not testify to anyone eating on the day of the accident. Id. at 43:8-18. She emphatically testified to having no memory of the condition of the floor just prior to or after the accident. Id. at 72:8-11. The closest she came to corroborating Young's version of events was to state “I think there was a space there, so everyone was walking around the space[.]” Id. at 39:23-40:8. She could not recall whether the floor was cracked, or whether grease or something else entirely was on the floor. Id. at 39:23-40:8 (“I think there was a crack or something there, you know. Just to remember if there was a grease or where was the crack. I think there was a crack there, but I'm not remembering.”).

         At the conclusion of her deposition, Winter wrote “after reading this I feel like I was pressured. Let me be clear. I did not see the accident [or] any grease. That's my final statement…” (Winter Acknowledgement).

         In support of her claims, Young has also produced an affidavit by Winter discussing the source of the greasy or oily substance. (Morrison Decl. Ex. D. - Winter Affidavit (“Affidavit”)). The Affidavit, written by Young's attorney, is unsigned and no signed version has been provided to this Court. Id. During her deposition, Winter was asked about the Affidavit and ...


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