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Oglesby v. Neill Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 2, 2017

JENNIE OGLESBY
v.
NEILL CORPORATION

         SECTION: “J” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This is 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 pain.

         Plaintiff 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.

         PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

         Defendant 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.

         In 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.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary 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.

         If the 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.

         If the 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 ...


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