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Willis v. Wilmington Parking Authority

Superior Court of Delaware

January 31, 2018

MONICA T. WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE WILMINGTON PARKING AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          Submitted: October 19, 2017

         Upon Defendant The Wilmington Parking Authority's Motion to Dismiss GRANTED.

          Brian S. Legum, Esquire, Kimmel, Carter, Roman & Peltz, P.A., Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Sarah B. Cole, Esquire, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, Attorney for Defendant The Wilmington Parking Authority.

          ORDER

          FERRIS W. WHARTON, J.

         This 31st day of January, 2018, upon consideration of Defendant The Wilmington Parking Authority's ("WPA") Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiff Monica T. Willis' ("Willis") response in opposition, it appears to the Court that:

         1. On August 10, 2017, Willis filed a Complaint against WPA. She claims that WPA was negligent and careless in the operation and maintenance of the exit gate arm of a surface parking lot.[1] Willis seeks damages for her personal injuries.[2]

         2. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that on July 8, 2016, Willis sustained personal injuries when a parking lot exit gate arm, located at the WPA lot at 801 N. Orange Street, Wilmington, Delaware, struck her in the head.[3]

         3. On September 8, 2017 WPA filed its Motion to Dismiss.[4] WPA asserts that it is immune from Willis' personal injury claim because 10 Del. C. § 4011(a) and § 4011(b)(6) grant immunity from suit for governmental entities.[5]

         4. Willis responded in opposition.[6] Willis argues that despite the broad immunity of § 4011(a), 10 Del. C. § 4012 grants exceptions by which WPA could be exposed to liability.[7] Willis' opposition does not address WPA's claim of immunity under § 4011(b)(6).

          5. A motion to dismiss will not be granted if the "plaintiff may recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof under the complaint."[8] The Court's review is limited to the well-pled allegations in the complaint.[9] In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court "must draw all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion."[10] Dismissal is warranted "only if it appears with reasonable certainty that the plaintiff could not prove any set of facts that would entitle him to relief."[11]

         6. WPA first argues that it is immune from Willis' claims under 10 Del C. § 4011 (a), therefore Willis' Complaint should be dismissed. In particular, 10 Del. C. § 4011(a) provides that "[e]xcept as otherwise expressly provided by statute, all governmental entities and their employees shall be immune from suit on any and all tort claims seeking recovery of damages." A "'[governmental entity' means...any parking authority created pursuant to Chapter 5 of Title 22..."[12] WPA is such a parking authority and therefore a "governmental entity" within the scope of § 4011(a). Additionally, Willis' claims fall within the scope § 4011(a) because she asserts a negligence tort claim seeking recovery for damages. WPA is correct, therefore, that it would be immune from suit under § 4011(a), absent any exceptions to that immunity "expressly provided by statute."

         7. Willis, however, argues that despite § 4011(a), WPA is still subject to liability because 10 Del. C. § 4012 enumerates exceptions to § 4011(a)'s broad grant of immunity. In pertinent part, § 4012 provides that:

[a] governmental entity shall be exposed to liability for its negligent acts or omissions causing property damage, bodily injury or death in the following instances: (1) In its ownership, maintenance or use of any motor vehicle, special mobile equipment, trailer, ...

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