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McDuffie v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 12, 2017

DUNWOODIE A. MCDUFFIE, ET AL.
v.
HILLSTONE RESTAURANT GROUP, INC, ET AL.

         SECTION "L" (5)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. R. Doc. 38. Plaintiff opposes the motion. R. Doc. 50. Having reviewed the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the Court now issues this Order & Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves a claim for injuries sustained as a result of a slip-and-fall at a Houston's Restaurant. On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff Dunwoodie McDuffie, Jr. was eating dinner at a Houston's Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. R. Doc. 1-1 at 1. While walking to the restroom he fell, allegedly because of a “dimly-lit step” in the hallway to the restroom. R. Doc. 1-1 at 1. Plaintiffs allege this condition constituted a hazard and presented an unreasonable risk of harm, which caused Plaintiff's alleged injuries. R. Doc. 1-1 at 1. Initially, Plaintiffs filed suit against Hillstone Restaurant Group, which operated the Houston's Restaurant, Travelers Indemnity Company, the liability insurer, and Carmon Carrillo, the manager at Houston's at the time of the alleged accident. R. Doc. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiffs have since dismissed their claims against Ms. Carrillo. R. Doc. 7.

         According to Plaintiffs, Mr. McDuffie sustained injuries to his ankle, shoulder, neck, back, and head as a result of the fall. R. Doc. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiffs seek general and special damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and lost earning capacity. Additionally, Cheryl McDuffie seeks recovery for damages resulting from loss of companionship and consortium. R. Doc. 1-1 at 3. Defendants timely removed the case to the Eastern District of Louisiana on May 20, 2016. R. Doc. 1. They allege the Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. R. Doc. 1 at 2.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         A. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 38)

         Defendants Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc. (“Hillstone”) and its liability insurer, Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut, argue that because there is no evidence of the alleged defect or of Defendants' knowledge of such a defect, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. R. Doc. 38-3 at 1. Defendant argues that there is no competent testimony showing any defect with the steps or lighting of the steps. R. Doc. 38-3 at 2. Further, Defendant argues that there is nothing showing that employees of Hillstone were aware of any problems with the lighting and that no prior incidents on the stairs had been reported. R. Doc. 38-3 at 4.

         B. Plaintiff's Response (R. Doc. 50)

         Plaintiff responds arguing that there are facts in dispute precluding summary judgment. R. Doc. 50 at 2. Plaintiff argues that the issue in this case is not whether the steps were a defect, but whether the steps created an unreasonable risk of harm. R. Doc. 50 at 2-3. Plaintiff argues that this is a question for the finder of fact and cannot be resolved on summary judgment. R. Doc. 50 at 3.

         III. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment Standard (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56)

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 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.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record, discovery, and any affidavits supporting the conclusion that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. If the moving party meets that burden, then the nonmoving party must use evidence cognizable under Rule 56 to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 324.

         A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1996). “[U]nsubstantiated assertions, ” “conclusory allegations, ” and merely colorable factual bases are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92, 97 (5th Cir. 1994); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. In ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court may not resolve credibility issues or weigh evidence. See Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991). Furthermore, a court must assess the evidence, review the facts and draw any appropriate inferences based on the evidence in the light most ...


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