Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pinedexter v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 25, 2017

TINA PINEDEXTER
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC.

          RULING

          SHELLY D. DICK, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment[1] by Defendant, Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC. (“Wal-Mart” or “Defendant”). Plaintiff, Tina Pinedexter (“Pinedexter” or “Plaintiff”), has filed an Opposition[2] to this motion. Defendant thereafter filed a Reply.[3] For the following reasons, the Court finds that Defendant's motion should be GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On September 27, 2015, Plaintiff alleges she slipped and fell, shortly after entering the Wal-Mart store located at 5056 Airline Highway in Prairieville, LA, due to a puddle of water near the entrance closest to the pharmacy.[4] Plaintiff's petition alleges that, as a result of the fall, she sustained injury to numerous parts of her body.[5] Plaintiff also contends that there were no warning signs or wet floor signs warning her of the hazardous condition.[6]

         The record indicates that Pinedexter filed her lawsuit against Wal-Mart, John/Jane Doe, and XYZ Insurance Co. on August 2, 2016.[7] Wal-Mart removed the case to this Court on August 18, 2016.[8] Wal-Mart alleges that it issued initial disclosures required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1) to Plaintiff on October 6, 2016.[9] Wal-Mart also alleges that Plaintiff failed to conduct any discovery prior to the filing of the current Motion for Summary Judgment.[10]

         Wal-Mart has moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy her burden under La. R.S. 9:2800.6 to come forward with positive evidence showing that the damage-causing condition existed for some period of time sufficient to place the Defendant on notice of its existence. Defendant claims there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, and Plaintiff's case should be dismissed. Plaintiff asserts that she lacks sufficient facts to justify an opposition at this time and requests this Court to either deny Defendant's Motion or, in the alternative, defer consideration under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d).

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[11] “When assessing whether a dispute to any material fact exists, we consider all of the evidence in the record but refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.”[12] A party moving for summary judgment “must ‘demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ' but need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case.”[13] If the moving party satisfies its burden, “the non-moving party must show that summary judgment is inappropriate by setting ‘forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue concerning every essential component of its case.'”[14] However, the non-moving party's burden “is not satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.”[15]

         Notably, “[a] genuine issue of material fact exists, ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'”[16] All reasonable factual inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.[17] However, “[t]he court has no duty to search the record for material fact issues. Rather, the party opposing the summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate precisely how this evidence supports his claim.”[18] “Conclusory allegations unsupported by specific facts … will not prevent the award of summary judgment; ‘the plaintiff [can]not rest on his allegations… to get to a jury without “any significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint.”'”[19]

         B. Procedure under Rule 56(d).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) provides a mechanism for a party opposing a motion for summary judgment who cannot present facts sufficient to justify an opposition additional time to conduct discovery. Recently, the Western District of Louisiana succinctly stated the jurisprudence on Rule 56(d) as follows:

Rule 56(d) discovery motions are ‘broadly favored and should be liberally granted' because the rule is designed to ‘safeguard non-moving parties from summary judgment motions that they cannot adequately oppose.' Culwell v. City of Fort Worth, 468 F.3d 868, 871 (5th Cir.2006). The nonmovant, however, ‘may not simply rely on vague assertions that additional discovery will produce needed, but unspecified, facts.' SEC v. Spence & Green Chem. Co., 612 F.2d 896, 901 (5th Cir.1980). Rather, a request to stay summary judgment under Rule 56(d) must ‘set forth a plausible basis for believing that specified facts, susceptible of collection within a reasonable time frame, probably exist and indicate how the emergent facts, if adduced, will influence the outcome of the pending summary judgment motion.' C.B. Trucking, Inc. v. Waste Management Inc., 137 F.3d 41, 44 (1st Cir.1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). ‘If it appears that further discovery will not provide evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact, the district court may grant summary judgment.' Access Telecom, Inc. v. MCI Telecomm. Corp., 197 F.3d 694, 720 (5th Cir.1999); see also Washington v. Allstate Ins. Co., 901 F.2d 1281, 1285 (5th Cir.1990) (‘This court has long recognized that a plaintiff's entitlement to discovery prior to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment is not unlimited, and may be cut off when the record shows that the requested discovery is not likely to produce the facts needed by the plaintiff to withstand a motion for summary judgment.').” Raby v. Livingston, 600 F.3d 552, 561 (5th Cir. 2010). Thus, to obtain a Rule 56(d) continuance in order to conduct further discovery prior to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must make essentially three showings: (1) a description of the particular discovery the movant intends to seek; (2) an explanation showing how that discovery would preclude the entry of summary judgment; and (3) a statement justifying why this discovery had not been or could not have been obtained earlier. Id.[20]

         Plaintiff asserts that she has not had a fair opportunity to conduct discovery because: (1) Amy Hodges, a witness to the incident, did not appear for her deposition; (2) Kayla Janeaux, Wal-Mart's Asset Protection Associate, did not appear for her deposition; (3) Ann Ory, Wal-Mart assistant manager, raised issues which warrant further discovery; and (4) Ty'Ana Howard, Wal-Mart store employee, raised an issue which warranted further discovery.[21] In particular, Plaintiff asserts that both Amy Hodges and Kayla Janeaux will provide information regarding whether Wal-Mart should have had actual or constructive notice of the wet floor on the date of the incident. Plaintiff identified three other managers during the deposition of Ann Ory who arguably might offer information regarding the condition of the floors on the date of the incident. Finally, Plaintiff argues that the juice display mentioned in Ty'Ana Howard's testimony warrants further discovery as to the cause of Plaintiff's fall. In light of the foregoing, Plaintiff argues that the Court should either deny or defer consideration of Defendant's Motion.

         Defendant asserts, and this Court agrees, that Plaintiff has failed to meet any of the three showings required under Raby v. Livingston[22] in order to obtain a continuance to conduct further discovery. First, instead of identifying particular discovery sought, Plaintiff only claims that she anticipates further discovery will produce evidence that Defendant had actual or constructive notice in general. The only particular discovery identified by Plaintiff is surveillance footage allegedly needed to determine if it was raining and the existence of the juice display. The Plaintiff's own testimony contradicts the need for this discovery.[23] Plaintiff testified that she did not recall it raining on the date of the incident, identified she slipped in water, and denied that it looked like juices.[24]

         Next, Plaintiff has made no offering how the discovery sought would preclude the entry of summary judgment. While Plaintiff seeks further discovery to show Defendant had actual or constructive notice, she has failed to elaborate on how any particular evidence sought would create a genuine issue of material fact or satisfy her burden of proving that the water existed for a period of time sufficient to place Wal-Mart on notice.[25]

         Finally, Plaintiff fails to explain why the discovery sought has not been, or could not have been, obtained earlier. Defendants argue that Plaintiff was provided Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures listing Ann Ory, Ty'ana Howard, Kayla Janeaux and Amy Hodges as persons with discoverable information along with the Customer Incident Report, Customer Accident Report, and Witness Statement of Amy Hodges on October 6, 2016.[26]Despite having this information, Plaintiff did not notice any depositions or request further written discovery until after Defendant filed their Motion on March 13, 2017.[27] Therefore, Plaintiff's request that the Court defer consideration of Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         The Court turns to the merits of the Defendant's summary judgment motion.

         C. The Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute - La. R.S. 9:2800.6[28]

         Louisiana Revised Statute 9:2800.6 sets forth the burden of proof in claims against merchants, such as the Defendant, and provides the following in pertinent part:

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, prior to the occurrence.
(3) The merchant failed to exercise reasonable care. In determining reasonable care, the absence of a written or verbal uniform cleanup or safety procedure is insufficient, alone, to prove failure to exercise reasonable care.

         “Constructive notice, ” as defined in La. R.S. 9:2800.6(C)(1), means that “the condition existed for such a period of time that it would have been discovered if the merchant had exercised reasonable care.” “The presence of an employee of the merchant in the vicinity in which the condition exists does not, alone, constitute constructive notice, unless it is shown that the employee knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the condition.”[29]

         Where the cause and time of a spill are unknown in a slip and fall case arising on a merchant's premises, “the factfinder is required to draw inferences from various factors pertaining to the spill and the merchant's actions in an effort to determine whether the [merchant's] negligence is the most plausible explanation for the accident.”[30] “Since fault is not based on strict liability, a spill that is not shown to be caused by the storekeeper, but more likely was caused by another patron, does not alone create liability.”[31] “The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant breached the duty of reasonable inspection and care of the premises.”[32]

         To prove that the defendant breached that duty, a plaintiff must make a “positive showing” that “the [damage-causing] condition existed for such a period of time” before the fall that the merchant would have discovered its existence through the exercise of ordinary care.[33] Thus, a claimant who simply shows that the condition existed, without an additional showing that the condition existed for “some time” prior to the fall, has failed to carry the burden of proving “constructive notice” as mandated by La. R.S. 9:2800.6.[34]Where a plaintiff does not present any evidence as to how long the damage-causing condition existed prior to the fall, courts have routinely found that the plaintiff has failed to carry his/her burden of proof.[35] In addition, the merchant does not have to disprove its culpability by coming forward with positive evidence of the absence of a spill.[36]

         In this case, Defendant contends Plaintiff's deposition testimony forecloses Plaintiff's claims because it demonstrates her inability to satisfy her burden of proof. Specifically, Plaintiff admits that she did not see the water on the floor prior to her fall, [37]did not know how the water got there, [38] and did not know how long it had been there before her fall.[39] Therefore, Defendant argues that the record is void of any evidence to satisfy Plaintiff's burden of proving the temporal element that the dangerous condition existed for such a time as to place the Defendant on notice thereof.

         The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to carry her burden of proof and failed to present a genuine issue of material fact which would preclude summary judgment. The law set forth above is clear: “Plaintiff must come forward with positive evidence showing that the condition that caused the damage existed for some period of time, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.