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Trippany v. Bossier Parish Community College

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 2, 2017

STEPHANIE LYNN TRIPPANY Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
BOSSIER PARISH COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND THE STATE OF LOUISIANA THROUGH THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF COMMUNITY & TECHNICAL COLLEGES, AS THE SUPERVISING AND MANAGING BOARD OF BOSSIER PARISH COMMUNITY COLLEGE Defendant-Appellee

         Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 139512 Honorable Jeff Cox, Judge

          SIMMONS, MORRIS & CARROLL, L.L.C. By: G. Adam Savoie Brandon T. Morris Counsel for Appellant.

          JEFF LANDRY Attorney General RONALD F. LATTIER Special Assistant Attorney General Counsel for Appellee.

          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         The plaintiff, Stephanie Trippany, appeals a judgment in favor of the defendants, Bossier Parish Community College and the State of Louisiana, Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges. The jury found that the defendants did not breach a duty of care owed to the plaintiff. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         On July 19, 2011, the weather was sunny at 3 p.m., when Stephanie Trippany, a student at Bossier Parish Community College ("BPCC"), arrived at the school. After entering Building F, Trippany walked approximately ten steps in the hallway, then slipped and fell in an area near the stairway. A short time earlier, BPCC employees and students had been carrying theatre equipment from outside to the second floor of Building F when a brief rain shower occurred. Some pieces of equipment were placed next to the stairway to get them out of the rain before being taken upstairs. A BPCC custodian, Miranda Wallace, had assisted with bringing in the theatre equipment and was returning to the front entry area when she heard a scream. Wallace noticed a small puddle of water next to the stairs and saw Trippany sitting on the floor several feet away. Wallace contacted a security officer, Steve Porter, who responded to the accident scene. Porter wrote in his report that he observed a small puddle of water on the floor next to the stairs and spoke with Trippany, who said she had injured her left knee after slipping in water and falling. She later sought medical treatment for her left knee. Porter also spoke with Wallace and wrote that the equipment brought in from the rain was the source of the water he had seen on the floor. At the time of the accident, BPCC's safety policy required employees to guard against water that drips onto the floor from wet items brought in after a rain shower.

         Subsequently, the plaintiff, Stephanie Trippany, filed a petition for damages against the defendants, BPCC and the State of Louisiana, Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges (collectively, "BPCC"). The parties filed summary judgment motions, which were denied by the district court. After a trial, the jury found that BPCC had not breached the duty of care owed to plaintiff. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of BPCC in accordance with the jury verdict. Plaintiff appeals the judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         In two assignments of error, the plaintiff contends the jury erred in making a determination that is contrary to the evidence presented. Plaintiff argues that BPCC employees breached the duty owed to her because they failed to remove the water from the floor contrary to defendant's safety policy.

         An individual is responsible for the damage caused by things in his custody. La. C.C. art. 2317. The owner of a thing is answerable for damage caused by its defect only upon a showing that he knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the defect which caused the damage, that the damage could have been prevented by the use of reasonable care and that he failed to exercise such care. La. C.C. art. 2317.1. No person shall have a cause of action based upon the liability imposed under Article 2317 against a public entity for damages caused by the condition of things within its care and custody unless the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the particular defect which caused the damage prior to the occurrence, and the public entity has had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect and failed to do so. La. R.S. 9:2800(C).

         Under the duty-risk analysis, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to conform his conduct to a specific standard of care (duty element); defendant failed to conform his conduct to the appropriate standard of care (breach of duty element); defendant's substandard conduct was a cause of plaintiff's injuries; and damages. Daigle v. City of Shreveport, 46, 429 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/5/11), 78 So.3d 753; Pamplin v. Bossier Parish Community College, 38, 533 (La.App. 2 Cir. 7/14/04), 878 So.2d 889. Factual determinations by a trier of fact will not be disturbed on review in the absence of manifest error based upon the record as a whole. Rosell v. Esco, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989).

         In the present case, Steve Porter testified that in 2011, he was a security officer at BPCC and he responded to Building F to investigate plaintiff's fall. Porter stated that he spoke with plaintiff, who was sitting in a chair at the time, and with Wallace. Porter testified that he had prepared a report in which he wrote that he "observed a small puddle of water on the floor next to the stairs" and that the plaintiff had "slipped on water that was on the floor next to the stairway and fell down, " injuring her left knee. Porter also wrote that he had been "told that people involved with the theater had just brought in equipment from outside just after a slight rain shower. This was how the water got on the floor." In his testimony, Porter described the water on the floor as "small droplets of water" covering an area ...


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