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Butler v. Georgia Pacific LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

July 7, 2015

ROGER D. BUTLER and SANTANA BUTLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
GEORGIA PACIFIC LLC d/b/a TEMPLE-INLAND SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA LUMBER, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM RULING

PATRICIA MINALDI, District Judge.

Before the court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 31], to which the plaintiffs have filed a Response [Doc. 33], to which the defendants have filed a Reply [Doc. 36]. For the following reasons, the defendants' Motion [Doc. 31] is GRANTED.

FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 27, 2013, Roger D. Butler ("Butler") allegedly stumbled and fell while clearing a board jam from a chipping machine.[1] The alleged cause of Butler's fall was the presence of debris on the stairs leading up to the chipping machine.[2] As a result of his fall, Butler suffered injuries.[3] Butler and his wife, Santana Butler, filed suit against the defendants in the 14th Judicial District Court for the State of Louisiana on December 19, 2013.[4] International Paper Company and Georgia-Pacific Wood Products South, LLC, removed the case to this court on March 3, 2014.[5] The instant Motion [Doc. 31] was filed on April 17, 2015.

LAW & ANALYSIS

I. Summary Judgment Standard

A grant of summary judgment is appropriate 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). A dispute is said to be "genuine" only where a "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Dizer v. Dolgencorp, Inc., No. 3:10-cv-699, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24025, at *16 (W.D. La. Jan. 12, 2012) (citing Fordoche, Inc. v. Texaco, Inc., 463 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2006)). "Rule 56[(a)] mandates the entry of summary judgment... against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Webber v. Christus Schumpert Health Sys., No. 10-1177, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99235, at *14 (W.D. La. Sept. 2, 2011) (citing Patrick v. Ridge, 394 F.3d 311, 315 (5th Cir. 2004)).

In ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, the district court shall draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at *3 n. 1 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (additional citation omitted)). However, the court will not, in the absence of proof, "assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)). "The non-movant cannot preclude summary judgment by raising some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of the evidence.'" Cormier v. W&T Offshore, Inc., No. 10-1089, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53416, at *18-19 (W.D. La. Apr. 12, 2013) (citing Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

II. Existence of a Duty

The defendants move for summary judgment on the basis that they owed no duty to Butler because the presence of wood chips on the stairs was an open and obvious hazard that was not unreasonably dangerous. Butler alleges that the wood chips on the stairs created an unreasonable risk of harm.

A negligence action consists of a four-prong inquiry:

I. Was the conduct in question a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to the plaintiff, i.e., was it a cause-in-fact of the harm which occurred?
II. Did the defendant owe a duty to the ...

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