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UNA Brown v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2017

UNA BROWN
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

         SECTION: “H” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, this Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a claim against the United States of America for damages caused by the negligence of a government agency occurring on property owned and maintained by a government agency. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was shopping in the commissary of the Naval Air Station in Belle Chasse when she tripped and fell over an unmarked electrical cord extended across an aisle.[1] She brings a claim for damages pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 a judgment as a matter of law.”[2] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[3]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[4] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[5] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[6] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[7] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[8] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[9]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff brings this suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which permits private plaintiffs to bring suits against the United States “for harm caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of Government employees, to the extent that a private person would be liable under the law of the place where the conduct occurred.”[10] Because the fall that is the subject of this suit took place in Louisiana, Louisiana law applies. Under Louisiana law, a merchant's liability for a trip and fall is governed by Louisiana Revised Statute § 9:2800.6, which provides:

A. A merchant owes a duty to persons who use his premises to exercise reasonable care to keep his aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a reasonable effort to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions which reasonably might give rise to damage.
B. In a negligence claim brought against a merchant by a person lawfully on the merchant's premises for damages as a result of an injury, death, or loss sustained because of a fall due to a condition existing in or on a merchant's premises, the claimant shall have the burden of proving, in addition to all other elements of his cause of action, all of the following:
(1) The condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the claimant and that risk of harm was reasonably foreseeable.
(2) The merchant either created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the damage, ...

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