United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DUNWOODIE A. MCDUFFIE, ET AL.
HILLSTONE RESTAURANT GROUP, INC, ET AL.
ORDER & REASONS
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.
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.
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.
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc.
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.
Plaintiff's Response (R. Doc. 50)
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.
Summary Judgment Standard (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56)
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.
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 ...