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Matthews v. Dolgencorp, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

May 29, 2015

BETTY MATTHEWS
v.
DOLGENCORP, LLC

RULING

ROBERT G. JAMES, District Judge.

This is a slip and fall diversity case in which Plaintiff Betty Matthews ("Matthews") alleges Defendant DolgenCorp, LLC ("Dollar General") negligently failed to clean up a spill in one of its stores.

Pending before the Court are Matthews' and Continental Indemnity Company's ("Continental") Motions for Partial Summary Judgment. [Doc. Nos. 13 & 14]. Matthews and Continental move the Court to grant summary judgment on the issue of liability.

For the following reasons, the Motions for Summary Judgment are DENIED.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On the afternoon of July 10, 2013, an unidentified customer knocked a can of Raid roach spray off the shelf at the Dollar General in Ruston, Louisiana.[1] The can cracked and its transparent contents began leaking on the floor. Soon after, Henri Turner ("Turner"), a stocking associate, discovered the can. He placed a cardboard box on top of it, informed the store manager, Mitzi Leonard ("Leonard"), and left to retrieve a "Caution Wet Floor" sign from the stockroom, which was close by. [Doc. No. 17-3, Exh. D-1, Mitzi Leonard Deposition ("Leonard Depo."), pp. 18, 49, 53]. While Turner was retrieving the sign, Leonard began walking to the area of the spill. Id. at 18.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, Matthews slipped on the leaked spray. Id. at 49; see also [Doc. No.13, Exh. 1, Betty Matthews' Deposition ("Matthews' Depo."), p. 28]. Matthews testified that, prior to her fall, she noticed the box, but not the spill. [Doc. No.13, Exh. 1, Matthews' Depo., pp. 42, 45]. The surveillance video does not capture Matthews' fall, only the aftermath. [Doc. No.13, Manual Attachment, Surveillance Video, CD-1, Chapter 8, at 45 seconds]. However, it does depict a shiny substance, glaring noticeably on the floor next to the box. Id; see also [Doc. No. 17-3, Exh. D-1, Leonard Depo., p. 30].

As a result of her fall, Matthews suffered neck, elbow, and hip pain. Id. at p. 62. She seeks $85, 000 in general damages, past medical expenses of $16, 073.15, and future medical expenses of $38, 488. [Doc. No. 1-2, Matthews' Demand Letter, p. 5].

Dollar General's Standard Operating Procedures include a "Spill Response" section, which instructs employees to "respond immediately to any spill... [and] block off the area with the Caution Wet Floor' sign until the area is dry." [Doc. No. 17-5, Exh. D-3, Standard Operating Procedures, p. 7]. The Spill Response policy further instructs employees to " protect the area until the Caution Wet Floor' sign can be displayed or the cleanup has been completed." Id. (emphasis added). How to "protect the area" is not specifically explained or defined. In a separate section of the Standard Operating Procedures, the "Store Presentation" policy regarding box displays provides "[i]f it is necessary to stage boxes in aisles, make certain the boxes are stacked at least knee high." Id. at p. 4.

On September 24, 2013, Matthews initiated suit in the Third Judicial District Court for Lincoln Parish. On August 22, 2014, Dollar General removed to this Court. [Doc. No. 3].

On April 10, 2015, Matthews filed the instant Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 13], claiming there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding liability, basing her argument primarily on claims Dollar General violated its own safety procedures. Accordingly, Matthews moves the Court to hold Dollar General liable as a matter of law. Continental, as an intervenor, also filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, adopting in extensio the entirety of Matthews' Motion. See [Doc. No. 14, p. 1]. On April 30, 2015, Dollar General filed an opposition memorandum. [Doc. No. 17], to which Matthews replied. [Doc. No. 19].

II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

A motion for summary judgment should be granted only if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a ...


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