TORINA A. COLLIS, Plaintiff,
TOPPER'S SALON AND HEATH SPA, INC., & TINA CASEY, Defendants.
Submitted: July 12, 2013
Upon Consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
Torina A. Collins, Pro Se.
Douglas T. Walsh, Esq., Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Defendants.
VAUGHN, President Judge
This is a professional negligence action. The pro se plaintiff, Torina Collis ("Ms. Collis"), alleges that she was injured while receiving a massage from Tina Casey ("Ms. Casey"), a licensed massage therapist employed by Topper's Salon & Health Spa, Inc. ("Topper's") (collectively, "Defendants"). All of the parties have now moved for summary judgment.
On April 5, 2009, Ms. Collis received the massage in question at Topper's location in Dover. During the massage, the plaintiff alleges that Ms. Casey performed cranial therapy and other maneuvers without disclosing any of the associated risks. Additionally, she asserts that Topper's did not have her fill out any medical history at any time during the visit. Ms. Collis contends that she has sustained injuries to her head, neck and upper back as a result of Defendants' negligence, and that treatment for those injuries is ongoing.
The plaintiff filed her complaint on April 5, 2011 and the Court entered a scheduling order on August 8, 2012. The expert disclosure deadline was originally set for April 15, 2013. The parties twice stipulated to extend the expert disclosure deadline, and established June 28, 2013 as the cutoff for the plaintiff. On June 20, 2013, the Court denied Ms. Collis' motion for a new scheduling order. The trial date provided in the August 8, 2012 scheduling order has remained in place. A jury trial is scheduled to commence on September 9, 2013.
The central issue before the Court involves the plaintiff's alleged failure to provide any expert testimony to support her negligence claim. The Court heard oral argument on the motions for summary judgment on July 12, 2013. During the motion hearing, Ms. Collis maintained that she did not need any experts to prove negligence in this case. However, she alternatively claimed that she had, in fact, emailed a list of experts to Defendants' counsel on June 28, 2013, in compliance with the expert disclosure date. She provided the list to the Court at the hearing. Four days after the hearing, on July 16, 2013, the plaintiff submitted a letter to the Court wherein she requested yet more time to submit an expert report in the event that she had misinterpreted the applicable law.
The plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment does not have any merit. Ms. Collis has not proved essential elements of her negligence case as a matter of law. Therefore, for the same reasons discussed later in this opinion, the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. However, at Ms. Collis' request, and in accordance with the leniency this Court provides to pro se litigants, I will consider the more expansive arguments contained in the plaintiff's briefing in support of her motion as part of her response to Defendants' motion.
Generally, Defendants contend that summary judgment is warranted for two reasons: (1) because Ms. Collis has failed to obtain competent expert testimony regarding the standard of care applicable to a professional massage therapist and (2) because Ms. Collis has failed to offer any expert opinion causally relating the plaintiff's injuries to the alleged negligence. Defendants contend that the allegations Ms. Collis raises in her complaint regarding the standard of care—i.e., the scope of massage therapy, the techniques and maneuvers a professional massage therapist may use and the manner in which the techniques are implemented—are not within the common knowledge of a layperson and must be established thr oug h ex per t te sti mony. Additionally, Defendants contend that none of the plaintiff's proposed experts offer a causation opinion. Lastly, Defendants contend that the settlement offer from their insurer to Ms. Collis is inadmissible at trial to prove liability pursuant to Delaware Rule of Evidence 408.
Ms. Collis contends that reasonable jurors of ordinary experience and intelligence can understand whether a massage therapist was negligent without the aid of an expert. She argues that the fact that Ms. Casey made a mistake is so apparent that a layperson is competent to determine whether there was negligence. Ms. Collis further contends that expert testimony is not required to establish causation in this case because she was in good health before the massage, but afterwards, her neck became stuck, causing severe pain and headaches. She suggests that the connection between Defendants' actions and her injuries is obvious and within the common knowledge of a layperson. Alternatively, she contends that she has disclosed expert opinions in ...