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Simpson v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.

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

March 23, 2017

SUSAN SIMPSON, ET AL.
v.
DOLLAR TREE STORES, INC. d/b/a DOLLAR TREE

          KAREN L. HAYES MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Susan Simpson (“Mrs. Simpson”) and Jerry Simpson (“Mr. Simpson”) brought a personal injury suit against Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. (“Dollar Tree”) for negligence. Mrs. Simpson alleges that Dollar Tree is liable for damages she incurred as a result of a robbery by an unknown party, which occurred in the parking lot of Dollar Tree. [Doc. No. 1-1, p. 4-5].

         Pending before the Court is Dollar Tree's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 34]. Dollar Tree argues that Plaintiffs cannot show that it had a duty to protect Mrs. Simpson from the criminal act of the unknown third party. Plaintiffs filed an opposition arguing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial whether Dollar Tree had a duty to protect Mrs. Simpson under the circumstances. [Doc. No. 40]. Dollar Tree filed a reply memorandum objecting to the use of exhibits supplied in Plaintiffs' opposition. Dollar Tree further argues that Plaintiffs' evidence in opposition is insufficient to create a duty to protect Mrs. Simpson under the circumstances.

         For the following reasons, Dollar Tree's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 16, 2014, Mrs. Simpson was injured during a robbery in Dollar Tree's parking lot. [doc # 1-1, p. 4]. During the robbery an unidentified third party demanded Mrs. Simpson's purse, struck her in the head with a gun, took her purse, and escaped through a hole in the fence on the property. Id. Mrs. Simpson began bleeding profusely from the blow to the head and attempted to re-enter the store by crawling to the front door. Id.

         Plaintiffs claim that, as a result of the robbery, Mrs. Simpson suffered loss of property and severe personal injuries. Specifically, Mrs. Simpson claims loss of property and money; past, present, and future pain and suffering; past, present, and future severe mental anguish and distress; past, present, and future medical expenses; lost income; and loss of quality and enjoyment of life. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiffs further claim that, as a result of this incident, Mr. Simpson suffered past, present, and future mental anguish and distress. Id. at 6. Mr. Simpson also brings a claim for loss of consortium. Id.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall 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.” The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion by identifying portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Topalian v. Ehrmann, 1125');">954 F.2d 1125, 1132 (5th Cir. 1992); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (“A party asserting that a fact cannot be . . . disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .). 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 material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         If the moving party can meet the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Norman v. Apache Corp., 19 F.3d 1017');">19 F.3d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir. 1994). In evaluating the evidence tendered by the parties, the Court must accept the evidence of the nonmovant as credible and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, “a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence. Thus, Summary Judgment is appropriate if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)); see also Ruiz v. Whirlpool, Inc., 12 F.3d 510');">12 F.3d 510, 513 (5th Cir. 1994) (“Testimony based on conjecture or speculation is insufficient to raise an issue of fact to defeat a summary judgment motion because ‘there is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. . . . If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.'”).

         B. Duty to Protect

         In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Dollar Tree argues that, in order to prevail in this negligence action, Plaintiffs must show that it had a duty to protect Mrs. Simpson from the acts of a third party. [Doc. No. 34-3]. Dollar Tree asserts that Plaintiffs' action must fail because they cannot show that the armed robbery was ...


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