United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
CHARLES B. SPROLES
MURPHY OIL USA, INC., AND LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13) filed
by Defendants Murphy Oil USA, Inc. ("Murphy"), and
Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Defendants seek
summary judgment on the claims asserted by Plaintiff Charles
B. Sproles, which relate to the injuries Plaintiff allegedly
incurred as a result of his slipping and falling at a gas
station owned by Murphy. Plaintiff filed a memorandum in
opposition to the Motion, (see Doc. 20), and Defendants filed
a reply to Plaintiffs memorandum in opposition, (see Doc.
22). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332, 1441. Oral argument is not necessary. For
the reasons explained herein, Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 13) is DENIED.
5, 2014, Plaintiff stopped at a gas station owned by
Defendant Murphy in Vidalia, Louisiana. When Plaintiff
arrived at the gas station, he stopped his truck behind the
truck of another customer ("customer in the flannel
shirt"), who was using the pump to fill both of his
truck's fuel tanks. When the customer in the flannel
shirt began to Fill his truck's second fuel tank, fuel
began to spill from the tailgate of his truck. The customer
utilizing the opposite side of the pump, Cursandra Robinson
("Robinson"), heard what sounded like "water
pouring" and smelled the odor of gasoline,
which alerted her to the spill. Robinson then urged the
customer in the flannel shirt to enter the gas station's
store and to inform an employee about the
surveillance shows that the customer in the flannel shirt
entered the store at approximately 12:44:27 p.m. He stood for
approximately eight seconds on the left side of the counter
where the cashier - Caylin Riley ("Riley") - was
helping another customer. The customer in the flannel shirt
thereafter walked to the back of the check-out line and
appears to have exchanged words with the customer in the rear
of the line before exiting the store at 12:44:57
Riley, who was the only employee on duty at the time, claims
that the customer in the flannel shirt did not inform her of
customer in the flannel shirt then returned to his truck and
pulled away from the pump at 12:46:16 p.m. Plaintiff then
pulled his truck up to the pump eight seconds later at
12:46:24 p.m. Upon stepping out of his truck, Plaintiff
fell to the ground at 12:46:50 p.m.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate "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."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A party asserting that a fact
cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion
by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the
record [-] including depositions, documents, electronically
stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, [and] interrogatory answers" - or by
averring that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the presence of a genuine dispute.
a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the
adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation
marks and footnote omitted). "This burden is not
satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated
assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence."
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (quotation marks and citations omitted). In
determining whether the movant is entitled to summary
judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most
favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable
inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep.
Sch. DisL, 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997).
summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time
for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] 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." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
assert that they are entitled to summary judgment as a matter
of law because (1) the fuel spill did not present an
"unreasonable risk of harm" and (2) Defendants did
not have "actual or constructive notice" of the
spill, both of which Plaintiff must prove in order to prevail
under Louisiana Revised Statutes section 9:2800.6. (Doc. 13-2
at p. 8). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court finds
that summary judgment is not appropriate.
UNREASONABLE RISK OF HARM
a negligence claim brought against a merchant by a person
lawfully on the merchant's premises for damages as a
result of an injury . . . the claimant shall have the burden
of proving . . . [t]he condition presented an unreasonable
risk of harm to the claimant and that risk of harm was
reasonably foreseeable." La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2800.6.
"Under Louisiana law, a defendant generally does not
have a duty to protect against an open and obvious
hazard." Broussard v. State ex rel. Office of State
Bldgs., 2012-1238, p. 10 (La. 4/5/13); 113 So.3d 175,
184. "In order for an alleged hazard to be considered
obvious and apparent, " the Louisiana Supreme Court
"has consistently stated that the hazard should be one
that is open and obvious to everyone who may potentially
encounter it." Bufkin v. Felipe's La., LLC,
2014-0288, p. 7 (La. 10/15/14); 171 So.3d 851, 856. The
Louisiana Supreme Court has described the question of
"whether a defect presents an unreasonable risk of harm
'[as] a disputed issue of mixed fact and law or policy
that is peculiarly a question for the jury or trier of the
facts.'" Reed v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
97-1174, p. 4 (La. 3/4/98); 708 So.2d 362, 364 (quoting
Tillman v. Johnson,612 So.2d 70 (La. 1993) (per
curiam)). "Thus, whether a defect presents an