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Video contradicting Plaintiff’s theory of liability sufficient for summary judgment

Hall v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
____ F.Supp.2d____ (not yet published)

by Gregory S. Emrick, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at: http://courts.delaware.gov/opinions/download.aspx?ID=209160

Plaintiff Hall was a passenger on a bus being operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”). Plaintiff alleged that as she was alighting from the bus, the bus operator began to close the door on her, “pushing” her out of the bus. Plaintiff lost her balance, fell, and alleged injury. Plaintiff filed suit against WMATA for her injuries. During the course of discovery, WMATA produced a videotape of the incident. In Judge Grimm’s words:

The video clearly depicts Hall standing at the front of the bus, waiting to exit while other passengers board the bus. While attempting to exit the bus, Hall begins falling prior to reaching the doors, which already were closing. Her hands stop the doors from closing as she falls through them. It is evident that the doors began to close before Hall entered the doorway. They did not close on Hall or immediately behind her as she was standing in the doorway. Nor did they cause her to fall. It is true that it is not clear from the video whether Plaintiff tripped.

Id. Based upon this video evidence, WMATA moved for summary judgment. In opposition, Plaintiff argued that the video did not demonstrate that the Plaintiff tripped, and could reasonably be viewed to show that “the Plaintiff reaching out of reflex, believing that the door was going to shut on her and as the door opened back up, she fell.” Id.

Judge Grimm noted that the standard of summary judgment prevented granting the motion if there were material facts in dispute. He also observed, however, that the Supreme Court had set a precedent in Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007), that when there was video evidence that is not open to more than one interpretation and contradicts the non-movant’s assertions, the Court “view[s] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Harris, 550 U.S. at 381. Judge Grimm then held that the facts as clearly depicted by the video tape did not support Plaintiff’s theory of liability as related in her Answers to Interrogatories.

For the doors to “push” her,… and “caus[e] her to fall onto the ground,” as Plaintiff alleges, they would have had to have been behind her, and if they were behind her, Plaintiff could not have “reach[ed] out” to stop them, as she argues in her Opposition. Therefore, the video plainly contradicts Plaintiff’s version of the facts, and I must disregard Plaintiff’s contrary allegations. .. Consequently, Plaintiff has not identified a breach of duty or a causal relationship between her injury and WMATA’s actions.

Hall, at 3. Judge Grimm proceeded to enter summary judgment in favor of WMATA and against Plaintiff Hall, without the necessity of a hearing.


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