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Ford v. Dolgencorp, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

November 30, 2017

YOLANDA FORD
v.
DOLGENCORP, LLC

          KAREN L. HAYES MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13] filed by Defendant DG Louisiana, LLC. Plaintiff Yolanda Ford opposes the motion. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">15]. For reasons assigned below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed suit in state court on October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">21');">1');">1');">1, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">16, alleging that, on or about October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">15, she sustained injuries when she tripped over a step stool and fell in Defendant's Dollar General store (“the alleged fall”). [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1]. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's negligence-leaving the step stool in the aisle unattended-caused injuries to her buttocks, back, left elbow, and left shoulder. Id. Defendant removed the action to this Court on December 1');">1');">1');">16, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">16. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1].

         Defendant moved for partial summary judgment on October 1');">1');">1');">13, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17, arguing that the alleged fall did not cause certain of Plaintiff's alleged injuries because those injuries occurred prior to the fall. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13]. Defendant argues specifically: (1');">1');">1');">1) that Plaintiff would have undergone her post-incident shoulder surgery regardless of the alleged fall; (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) that the treatment Plaintiff received for back injuries in and following March of 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17 was unrelated to the alleged fall; and (3) that Plaintiff's post-incident treatment with Dr. James Gordon is unrelated to the alleged fall. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1].

         Plaintiff responded to the instant motion on November 6, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17, claiming that the alleged fall aggravated her pre-existing injuries. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">15]. Plaintiff does not, however, dispute that the treatment she received for back injuries in and following March of 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17 was unrelated to her alleged fall. Id. at 7.

         Defendant replied to Plaintiff's response on November 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">16].

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence before a court shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 4');">477 U.S. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">4');">477 U.S. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">48 (1');">1');">1');">1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 4');">477 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">17');">4');">477 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">17, 32');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23 (1');">1');">1');">1986) (quoting Anderson, 4');">477 U.S. at 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">47). “The moving party may meet its burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by pointing out that the record contains no support for the non-moving party's claim.” Stahl v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">283 F.3d 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">254');">4, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">263 (5th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2002');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2). Thereafter, if the non-movant is unable to identify anything in the record to support its claim, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).[1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1" id= "FN1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1]

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, courts “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” and “must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Total E & P USA Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Corp., 1');">1');">1');">19 F.3d 4');">42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">4');">71');">1');">1');">19 F.3d 4');">42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">4, 4');">434');">4 (5th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">13) (citations omitted). While courts will “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, ” an actual controversy exists only “when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air. Corp., 37 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1069');">37 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1069, 1');">1');">1');">1075 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1994');">4). To rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must show, with “significant probative evidence, ” that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">232');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 F.3d 4');">473');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">232');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 F.3d 4');">473, 4');">477 (5th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2000) (emphasis added). “‘If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, ' summary judgment is appropriate.” Cutting Underwater Tech. USA, Inc. v. Eni U.S. Operating Co., 1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 51');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">671');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 51');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 51');">1');">1');">17 (5th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) (quoting Anderson, 4');">477 U.S. at 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">48).

         Relatedly, there can be no genuine dispute as to a material fact when a party fails “to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 4');">477 U.S. at 32');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23. This is true “since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 32');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23.

         B. Plaintiff's Post-Incident Shoulder Surgery

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's alleged fall did not cause her to undergo left shoulder surgery in June of 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">16. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1]. Plaintiff began experiencing recurring left shoulder pain in 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2007, when she suffered an on-the-job injury. [Doc. Nos. 1');">1');">1');">13-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2; 1');">1');">1');">13-4');">4, pp. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2-3]. She was actively treating her left shoulder pain with Dr. Timothy Spires, an orthopedist, before the alleged fall. Id.

         “The test for determining the causal relationship between the accident and a subsequent injury is whether the plaintiff provided sufficient proof that more probably than not, the accident caused the subsequent injuries.” Urquhart v. Spencer, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">17-0069 (La.App. 4');">4 Cir. 7/2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">27/1');">1');">1');">17), 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24');">4 So.3d 1');">1');">1');">102');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 1');">1');">1');">1031');">1');">1');">1 (citing Frost v. Carter, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">13-0375, pp. 7');">p. 7');">p. 7');">p. 7-8 (La.App. 4');">4 Cir. 4');">4/2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2/1');">1');">1');">14');">4), 1');">1');">1');">14');">40 So.3d 59');">1');">1');">1');">14');">40 So.3d 59, 64');">4). “If the evidence establishes that a plaintiff's pre-accident and post-accident conditions are identical in all meaningful respects, the plaintiff has failed to carry his burden of proving causation.” Chavers v. Travis, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2004');">4-0992');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 (La.App. 4');">4 Cir. 4');">4/2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20/05), 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 So.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 389');">902');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 So.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 389, 394');">4-95.

         “Where the conclusion [that the defendant caused the plaintiff's damage] is not one within common knowledge, expert testimony may provide a sufficient basis for it, but in the absence of such testimony it may not be drawn. But on medical matters within common knowledge, no expert testimony is required to permit a conclusion as to causation.” Lasha v. Olin Corp., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25 So.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">1');">1');">1002');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">62');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25 So.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">1');">1');">1002');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 1');">1');">1');">1005 (La. 1');">1');">1');">1993). “Differentiating between damages caused by an accident and damages caused by the normal progression of a plaintiff's pre-existing condition often presents complex legal and medical issues.” Chavers, 902');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 So.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d at 395.

         Here, deciding whether Plaintiff's alleged fall more probably than not caused or contributed to her need for surgery, or whether Plaintiff's pre-existing condition was the sole factor necessitating surgery, presents a complex medical issue that is outside common knowledge.[2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2" name="FN2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2" id="FN2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2] Thus, Plaintiff must present expert testimony that the alleged fall more probably than not caused her to undergo surgery.[3" name="FN3" id= "FN3">3]

         Defendant presents expert testimony that the alleged fall did not cause Plaintiff to undergo surgery: Dr. Spires testified in deposition that Plaintiff was likely a candidate for left shoulder surgery before her alleged fall. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13-3, p. 7]. Dr. Spires also testified explicitly that Plaintiff's alleged fall did not, more probably than not, cause the injuries that necessitated Plaintiff's surgery.[4');">4" name="FN4');">4" id= "FN4');">4">4');">4] According to Defendant, this testimony is “affirmative” evidence that Plaintiff's “surgery is not related to the Dollar General incident.” [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1, p. 6 (emphasis omitted)].

         Plaintiff counters that, while she was a candidate for surgery before the alleged fall, Dr. Spires had not yet recommended surgery. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">15-5, p. 1');">1');">1');">150]. Plaintiff also highlights Dr. Spires' testimony that the alleged fall aggravated her left shoulder injury:

Q. And [the alleged fall] didn't create her left shoulder problem, did it?
A. No.
Q. And I appreciate the medical records that it aggravated ...

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