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Trask-Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P.

July 17, 2008

MARILYN L. TRASK-MORTON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MOTEL 6 OPERATING L.P., A DELAWARE LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 05 C 1633-Larry J. McKinney, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED JANUARY 16, 2008

Before MANION, WOOD, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Shortly after midnight on December 7, 2003, Marilyn Trask-Morton checked into a Motel 6 in Indianapolis. Later that morning, Morton, acting dazed and confused, staggered into the lobby of the motel and up to the front desk, slid sideways, and fell to the floor. Morton was taken to a hospital, treated, and released. Morton has no memory of what happened between when she went to bed at the motel and when she regained consciousness in the hospital. Nevertheless, Morton filed suit against Motel 6 Operating, L.P. alleging, among other things, that she had been sexually assaulted during that time and asserting several negligence claims against Motel 6 for allowing the assault to occur. Motel 6 filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granted. Morton appeals. We affirm.

I.

On Sunday, December 6, 2003, Morton drove a rental truck from Oklahoma, where she resided, to Indiana. She stopped at a Motel 6 on Bradbury Road in Indianapolis shortly after midnight on December 7. According to Morton, the reason for her trip was to help her friend Kirk Speelman of Las Vegas, Nevada, with his family's wholesale cigarette business. Morton testified at her deposition that she had agreed to drive an empty rental truck to Indianapolis for Speelman, who would be arriving by plane to meet her there. Speelman would then take the truck east to pick up supplies for his business, while Morton would fly back to Oklahoma. In exchange for her help, Morton testified that Speelman promised to pay her a thousand dollars in addition to reimbursing her expenses.

Upon arriving at the Motel 6, Morton checked in at the lobby. The front desk clerk on duty assigned Morton to Room 330, which was on the third floor. She also gave Morton a plastic key card and showed Morton where her room was located on a motel diagram.*fn1 Morton testified that she then parked the truck in the parking area close to her room and went up to her room. The room had sealed windows that would not open either from the inside or the outside. In addition, the room was not accessible through any of the other rooms in the motel. Morton used her key card to open the door to her room. A later check of the motel's electronic key-lock system showed that no key was used other than Morton's to enter the room that Sunday evening and the following morning.

Once inside the room, Morton locked the door and fastened the safety chain. After securing the door, Morton brushed her teeth at the sink outside the bathroom and the bathroom door, which was open. Morton did not use the bathroom, but did notice that the shower curtain "was about halfway over." The housekeeper who had cleaned Morton's room testified that her practice in cleaning a bathroom would be to put the shower curtain "in the middle" with the bath towel in front of it. Morton then took a dose of Flexeril, a muscle relaxant, and retired to bed in an undershirt and underpants. After a quick glance at the clock, which showed 12:57 a.m., Morton fell asleep. She has no memory of what occurred between when she fell asleep and when she regained consciousness in the hospital the following evening.

Tamara Belcher was tending the front desk of the motel the morning of December 7 when Morton staggered into the lobby. (The precise time of her entrance is unknown.) Morton was acting irrationally. Her speech was slurred, her appearance disheveled, and she appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Morton made her way to the front desk, where she slid sideways and fell onto the floor. Belcher testified at her deposition that she asked Morton several times whether she should call an ambulance and that she understood Morton to answer "no." At some point, another of the motel's guests (who also happened to be an emergency medical technician) checked Morton's pulse. He told Belcher that Morton's pulse was dangerously low and that she needed to be taken to the hospital. Belcher then called her supervisor and asked her if she could call an ambulance even though Morton had declined one. Belch-er's supervisor responded "yes," and someone called an ambulance soon thereafter. An ambulance arrived five to ten minutes later and took Morton to the hospital. The ambulance report lists the time of the ambulance's dispatch as 10:57 a.m. and its arrival at the hotel as 11:05 a.m.

While Morton was in the lobby, her cell phone was ringing constantly. Belcher got hold of the phone and spoke with Speelman, who told her that he was on his way from the airport to the motel. Belcher testified at her deposition that Speelman arrived at the motel just as Morton was being taken out the door to the ambulance. According to Belcher, Morton called Speelman by name when he walked in the door and appeared to be happy to see him. The two then spoke briefly before Morton left in the ambulance for the hospital. Speelman paid for another night at the motel for Morton and was given a key to her room so he could take her personal belongings to her at the hospital.

Speelman, accompanied by a Motel 6 employee, went to Morton's room. Speelman testified at his deposition that when he arrived at the room, the door was ajar and Morton's personal effects were strewn about the room. Speelman said that he tidied up Morton's person belongings and then left for the hospital to check on Morton after finding the keys to the rental truck in the grass outside of the motel. Speelman later returned to the motel and found that the door to Morton's room was still unlocked. After calling Morton's son to notify him of her condition, Speelman took the rental truck and left Indianapolis.

Morton did not regain consciousness until sometime Monday evening. She recalls someone from the hospital staff shaking her and telling her that they needed to do a spinal tap, which she declined. Morton testified that when she "came to" she was wearing her undershirt, shoes, and a pair of unbuttoned and unzipped jeans, but no socks or underwear. The medical records from the hospital visit noted that Morton's temperature was 95.5° Fahrenheit; she was confused, disoriented, and slurred her speech; she complained of pains and aches all over her body, including her knees, ankles, and calves; she was assessed for multiple sclerosis; and a CT scan of her head was "negative." There was no mention in the records of Morton's emergency-room visit of any sexual assault. Nor was there any suggestion that Morton was being treated as a victim of a sexual assault.

Morton took a taxi back to the motel and returned to her room, with the taxi driver accompanying her to obtain payment. According to Morton, when she reached her room she found that her purse was gone, her cell phone missing, and her luggage ransacked. Morton was not able to pay the driver, but took his business card and promised to pay him when she got some money.*fn2 Morton spoke with her son late that evening over the phone about wiring her cash. Morton testified that during the conversation she told him she had been attacked. Morton stated that she did not remember if she used the restroom when she returned to her room, but she did know that she did not take a shower. Morton stayed the night in her room.

The next day, Morton had the front desk contact the police twice. The first time, Morton had the police summoned to report the theft of her property. Upon their arrival, Morton told the officers she had awoken around 8:00 a.m. on December 7 after dreaming that she was falling and, though dizzy, was able to walk down to the front desk. She explained to the officers that she discovered that her purse was missing when she returned from the hospital. She also told them that she did not believe she had been sexually assaulted. After speaking ...


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