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Griffin v. Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 9, 2015

JOYCELYN GRIFFIN
v.
WAL-MART LOUISIANA, L.L.C

RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JAMES J. BRADY, District Judge.

Defendant, Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C., moves for this Court to grant summary judgment in its favor based on the argument that Plaintiff, Jocelyn Griffin, has failed to produce evidence sufficient to support the elements of her claim.

I. SUMMARY OF FACTS

This case arises out of an incident on October 3, 2013 at the Wal-Mart store located at 933 Grand Caillou Road in Houma, Louisiana. Plaintiff alleges she slipped and fell due to the negligence of Wal-Mart employees for causing or failing to remove a foreign substance on the floor. Plaintiff alleges as a result of this incident, she suffered injuries (doc. 1-2, at 1). Testimony was given by Plaintiff; her husband, Mr. Frank Griffin; and Wal-Mart employees, Mr. James Bogen and Assistant Manager Ms. Kim Johnson.

On the date of the incident, Plaintiff traveled to Wal-Mart with Mr. Griffin (doc. 7-8, at 1). The incident occurred when approaching the register for check out. Plaintiff was heading to the register along the same path she had taken when entering the store ten minutes earlier. Id. Around the time of the incident, Plaintiff observed a store employee operating a machine (doc. 7-2, at 49). Plaintiff describes the machine as a waxing machine. Id. Defendant testifies that the operating machine was not dispensing any type of liquid (doc. 7-8, at 2). Plaintiff testified she does not recall what caused her to fall (doc. 7-2, at 62). Plaintiff testified she does not recall if the floor was slippery (doc. 7-2, at 59). Plaintiff testified she did not look to see if anything caused her to fall (doc. 7-2, at 64).

Mr. Griffin testified that he did not see anything noticeable that may have caused Plaintiff to fall, and he did not have any knowledge to indicate the floor was slippery (doc. 7-3, at 24). Mr. Griffin testified that he does not know what caused Plaintiff to fall. Id. at 43.

Ms. Johnson testified she walked the area after the incident and concluded the floor was dry (doc. 7-4, at 30). Mr. Bogen and Ms. Johnson both testified that "Wal-Mart employees securely block off an area before waxing it, until the area dries" (doc. 7-8, at 2).

II. STANDARD OF LAW

Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instruct the Court to "grant summary judgment if 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." Material fact that is genuinely in dispute is defined as "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2507 (1986). Furthermore, all fact questions are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant for the purposes of summary judgment. Hassan v. Lubbock Indep. Sch. Dist, 55 F.3d 1075, 1078 (5th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 955, 116 S.Ct. 532, 133 L.Ed.2d 438 (1995). However, only pretrial materials and evidence that would be admissible for a trial may be considered for summary judgment. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987).

The movant bears the initial burden in a summary judgement motion. The movant's burden is to "point out the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case." Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 913 (quoting Latimer v. Smithkline & French Laboratories, 919 F.2d 301, 303 (5th Cir. 1990)). If the movant fails to satisfy this burden, summary judgment must be denied, regardless of nonmavant's response. If the movant satisfies this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmovant. The nonmovant is required to specifically identify evidence from the record, precisely state which evidence supports their claim, and present evidence which would sustain a motion of directed verdict at trial. If nonmovant fails to satisfy this burden, a motion of summary judgment will be granted for the movant. Stults v. Conoco, Inc., 76 F.3d 651, 656 (5th Cir. 1996).

In this case, Wal-Mart, the movant, bears the initial burden of proof.

III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. La. R.S. 9:2800.6

In a diversity case, substantive state law applies. Erie R. Co. v. Thompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 118 (1938). Louisiana R.S. 9:2800.6 provides Plaintiff's burden of proof in a negligent action involving slip and fall incidents on a merchant's premises due to a condition in or on the premises. Louisiana R.S. 9:2800.6(B) provides that in such actions, the claimant shall have the burden of proving, in addition to all other elements of the cause of action, all of the following: (1) the condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the claimant and that risk of harm was reasonably foreseeable; (2) the merchant either ...


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