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Davis v. Otis Elevator Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 31, 2017

ONGALETTA DAVIS,
v.
OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) by Defendant Otis Elevator Company. The Motion seeks the dismissal of all claims brought against it by Plaintiff Ongaletta Davis and the State of Louisiana ("the State"). (Doc. 18). Only Plaintiff Davis filed a response and Defendant filed a reply. (Docs. 24, 28). For reasons explained fully herein, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from injuries incurred by Plaintiff Davis involving an elevator at the Iberville State Office Building, where she worked for the State as an IT specialist. (Doc. 18-2 at p. 1). On July 10, 2014, Davis entered the elevator behind a woman who was utilizing a medical walker. (Doc. 18-3 at p. 2:1-19). Davis's ability to enter the elevator was slowed by the walker, requiring her to stop in the threshold of the elevator. (Id.). As this happened, the elevator's "nudging" mechanism initiated. (See Doc. 31-1 at p. 2:14-20). The nudging mechanism is a mechanism in the elevator that prevents an elevator from being obstructed for a prolonged period of time. (Doc. 18-2 at p. 2). A beeping sound is then initiated, and the elevator doors begin to close at a reduced speed without the benefit of the "protective device" that prevents the doors from closing around an object. (See Id.).

         As the nudging mechanism of the elevator began to close the doors, Plaintiff Davis held her hands up against the doors before stepping out of the elevator. (Doc. 18-3 at p. 3:21-23). Before she could step back from the elevator however, her hands made contact with the closing doors, which caused injury to her hands and arms. (Doc. 24 at pp. 1-2). Plaintiff Davis then took the next elevator up to her place of employment, and she informed her supervisor about the injury. (Doc. 18-3 at p. 4:15-18).

         As a result of the incident, Plaintiff Davis has sought, and been awarded, workers' compensation by her employer, the State. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 2). Plaintiff Davis also filed an action in state court against Defendant, claiming violations of Louisiana Products Liability Law for failure to properly design the elevator and for failure to warn about the improper defect, and a general negligence claim. (Id. at 15). The State also filed a complaint in state court, seeking recompense for the workers' compensation benefits paid to Plaintiff Davis. (Id. at 11-14). The State alleges that "[t]he sole cause of damages that gives rise to this matter was the breach of contract and/or negligent acts of omission of [Defendant OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY." (Id. at 13).

         Defendant's Motion seeks dismissal of all claims against it. (Doc. 18-2 at p. 14). The State has filed no opposition. Plaintiff Davis has filed an opposition in which she only argues that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the negligence claim, but fails to point to evidence in the record that would suggest summary judgment is improper on her products liability claims. (See generally Doc. 24).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen 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).

         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 u. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997). At this stage, the Court does not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991), cert, denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc., 939 F.2d at 1263. On the other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied merely upon a showing of "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).

         In sum, 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). Summary judgment will lie only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241 (5th Cir. 1972).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. The State's Contract Claim

         The record in the case reveals the existence of a contract between the State and Defendant. (See Doc. 18-5 at pp. 5-8). However, under Louisiana Law, to prove a breach of contract the State must identify a specific provision which the Defendant allegedly breached. See Lamar Contractors, Inc. v. Kacco, Inc., 2015-1430 (La. 5/3/16), 189 So.3d 394, 398. However, the State does not-in its complaint or elsewhere in the ...


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