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Reid v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 19, 2019

Carol E Reid, Plaintiff,
v.
United States of America, Xanterra South Rim LLC, and Xanterra Parks & Resorts Incorporated, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Honorable Roslyn O. Silver, Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Carol Reid fell on a single-step transition while visiting Grand Canyon National Park. The building where Reid fell was owned by the United States, through the National Park Service, and was maintained and operated by Xanterra, a contractor of the United States. Reid sued the United States and Xanterra, alleging she fell as a result of the “unreasonably dangerous condition” of the single-step transition. (Doc. 18 at 3.) The United States filed a crossclaim against Xanterra on the issue of indemnification. (Doc. 25.)

         The United States moves for summary judgment on Reid's claims and the United States' crossclaim against Xanterra, (Doc. 59), and Xanterra cross-moves for summary judgment (Doc. 68). Xanterra also moves for summary judgment on Reid's claims on the basis of the statute of limitations. (Doc. 61.) For the following reasons, the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 59) is granted in part and denied in part. Xanterra's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 68) is granted in part and denied in part. Xanterra's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims (Doc. 61) is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Grand Canyon National Park is owned by the United States of America through the National Park Service (“NPS”).[1] (Doc. 60 at 2.) The Director of the NPS (the “Director”) acts “on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior and the United States, and his duly authorized representatives.” (Doc. 60-5 at 7.) The NPS has entered into concession contracts with certain for-profit concessioners to provide visitors with accommodations, facilities, and services in the national parks. (Doc. 60 at 2.)

         In 2002, NPS and Xanterra South Rim, [2] (“Xanterra” or the “Concessioner”), entered into a concession contract (the “Contract”). After its original ten-year term, the Contract was renewed annually until it expired on December 31, 2014. (Docs. 60 at 2; 60-3 at 42.) The Contract required Xanterra to operate and maintain the Mather Campground Camper Services Building (“Camper Services”) and adjacent lands: “The Concessioner shall provide, operate and maintain the required and authorized visitor services and any related support facilities and services in accordance with this Contract to such an extent and in a manner considered satisfactory by the Director.” (Doc. 60-5 at 11.) On a day to day basis, Xanterra employees-rather than NPS employees-worked at Camper Services. (Doc. 60-4 at 4.)

         As part of its maintenance duties, Xanterra conducted monthly safety inspections, which involved a walkthrough of the facility and evaluation of several items on a checklist. (Doc. 60 at 5.) These monthly evaluations were for Xanterra's internal operations and were not shared with NPS. (Doc. 60 at 5.) The Contract provided NPS would conduct its own inspections: “The NPS shall inspect and monitor concession facilities and services with respect to NPS policy [and] applicable standards . . . . The NPS will evaluate all services and facilities operated by the Concessioner to ensure public safety and health, ensure sound environmental management, identify maintenance and operating deficiencies as they may occur, and ensure satisfactory services and accommodations for the general public within assigned areas of responsibility.” (Doc. 60-5 at 49.) Additionally, the Contract required the Director to “undertake appropriate inspections, and shall establish and revise, as necessary, a Maintenance Plan consisting of specific requirements which shall be adhered to by the Concessioner.” (Doc. 60-5 at 24.) The Maintenance Plan, in turn, required Xanterra to prepare an annual “written maintenance program to be completed during the following year” and to submit it to the NPS. (Doc. 60-7 at 4.)

         The Contract was in place in September 2014, when Plaintiff Carol Reid (“Reid”) visited Grand Canyon National Park. On September 5, 2014, Reid went to Camper Services to use the restroom. (Docs. 60 at 7; 67 at 3.) Reid entered the building through a door that was at the same level on both sides of the threshold. (Doc. 67 at 3.) After using the restroom, Reid exited the building through a different door, although she mistakenly believed she was exiting through the same door she used to enter. (Doc. 67 at 4.) The door through which she exited had a single-step transition at the landing. (Docs. 60 at 7; 67 at 4). In other words, when someone exited through that door, there was a single downward step to the ground. (Docs. 60 at 7; 67 at 4.) The face (riser) and a portion of the top edge of the single step were painted white. (Doc. 67 at 4.) There was no signage on or near the door alerting visitors to the single-step change in elevation. (Doc. 67 at 4.) Reid testified the outdoors area was a “covered patio area.” (Doc. 69-1 at 2.)

         When Reid exited the door to go outside, she followed “a gentleman in front of [her] who opened the door” and held it open. (Docs. 67-1 at 1; 69-1 at 3.) Reid testified there was a second man in front of him, “who was standing on what [she] later understood to be the step.” (Doc. 67-1 at 2.) In order to exit the area, Reid moved to get around the man holding the door, taking two or three steps to the right. (Doc. 67 at 4.) Reid testified: “I sidled to my right. And within a couple of sidles, I found that my right foot was not in contact with a hard surface, and I tumbled to my right and cratered down on my right wrist.” (Doc. 67-1 at 2.) Right before she fell, Reid did not look down and was not “watching where [her] feet were falling.” (Doc. 69-1 at 7.) Reid alleges the fall caused her to fracture her right ulna and radius, which required her to undergo surgery. (Doc. 18 at 4.)

         Reid testified in deposition that when she fell, it was a clear day in the “middle of the day.” (Doc. 69-1.) The only lighting issue was associated with “coming out of a lit building into a dark, covered patio area.” (Doc. 69-1 at 2.) Reid testified her view of the patio was partially obstructed by the man holding the door in front of her, but there was nothing obstructing her view of the patio to the right. (Doc. 69-1 at 3.) Although there were signs on the door that said “No Smoking” and “No Firearms, ” Reid did not read them at the time. (Doc. 69-1 at 4.) Reid testified the single step transition was neither cracked nor otherwise defective. (Doc. 69-1 at 5.)

         Reid sued the United States on March 27, 2017, alleging the “unreasonably dangerous condition” of the single-step transition caused her to fall and sustain injuries. (Doc. 1 at 2.) The United States answered, averring that pursuant to the Concession Contract, Xanterra “possessed the camp services building” at the time of the accident. (Doc. 7 at 2.) On October 10, 2017, Reid filed an amended complaint, adding Xanterra[3]as a defendant. (Doc. 18.) The United States subsequently filed a crossclaim against Xanterra on the issue of indemnification. (Doc. 25.)

         Before the Court are the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 59), Xanterra's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 68), [4] and Xanterra's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims (Doc. 61.) The Court addresses each of the motions below.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper where “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). Material facts are those that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is only genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving ...


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