United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment Regarding
Notice, Waiver, and Causation (Rec. Doc. 26) filed by
Defendant Beauty Basics, Inc. d/b/a Aveda Institute
Birmingham (“Defendant”), an opposition thereto
(Rec. Doc. 51) filed by Plaintiff Jennie Oglesby
(“Plaintiff”), and a reply (Rec. Doc. 59) filed
by Defendant. Also before the Court is a Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages (Rec. Doc.
27) filed by Defendant, an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 52)
filed by Plaintiff, and a reply (Rec. Doc. 58) filed by
Defendant. Having considered the motion and legal memoranda,
the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the
motions should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
a slip and fall case emanating from an incident that occurred
while Plaintiff was in the Aveda Institute of Birmingham
(“Aveda Institute”) beauty school in Birmingham,
Alabama. On July 31, 2015, Plaintiff entered the Aveda
Institute to have her hair done. Before receiving her hair
treatment, Plaintiff signed a release form
(“release”) whereby she agreed not to bring suit
against Defendant for injury or damage she might suffer while
she was at the Aveda Institute. Plaintiff alleges that during
her hair treatment, she was led from her chair to the sink
area to rinse her hair. At this point, Plaintiff slipped.
Plaintiff alleges that she lost her footing because a
significant amount of water had accumulated on the floor and
she stepped in it. Plaintiff stumbled into the cabinet and
never actually fell to the ground. Nevertheless, Plaintiff
alleges that this accident loosened old wounds from previous
abdominal surgeries, causing her new injuries and extreme
filed suit in this Court on July 20, 2016, alleging that
Defendant's negligence and gross negligence were the sole
causes of her injuries. On March 14, 2017, Defendant filed
the instant motions for summary judgment. Both motions are
before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.
argues that the Louisiana Merchant Liability Act applies to
this case and that Plaintiff cannot meet her burden of proof
under the Act. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff executed
a valid waiver that released Defendant from liability.
Additionally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate a causal connection between the accident and her
injuries. Finally, Defendant argues that its conduct did not
qualify as willful or wanton and summary judgment should be
granted on Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages.
opposition, Plaintiff first argues that Alabama law applies
to this case and the Louisiana Merchant Liability Act is not
applicable. Plaintiff also argues that the release she signed
does not preclude her from bringing this suit. Finally,
Plaintiff argues that she has made a prima facie claim of
negligence and a prima facie claim for punitive damages.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c));
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any
material fact exists, a court considers “all of the
evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta
& Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,
530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences
are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot
defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or
unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable
jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must
come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a
directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at
trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v.
Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir.
1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by
either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or
“showing that the moving party's evidence is so
sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to
return a verdict in favor of the moving party.”
Id. at 1265.
dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will
bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence
in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential
element of the nonmoving party's claim. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to
evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue
exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest