United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
B. WHITEHURST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a Motion For Summary Judgment filed by
defendants, Wal-Mart Louisiana LLC and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
(collectively, “Wal-Mart”) [Doc. 28]. Plaintiff
Eric Watters opposes the motion [Doc. 34] and Wal-Mart has
filed a Reply brief [Doc. 42]. For the reasons that follow,
the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
following facts are undisputed:
• The plaintiff alleges he injured himself after his
left foot caught the floor mount of a stainless steel guard
rail surrounding a meat bunker at Wal-Mart Store No. 531 on
May 3, 2016.
• The plaintiff alleges he was standing next to the
floor cooler, facing forward and looking down at the
merchandise inside the cooler. The plaintiff alleges his feet
were under the rail that surrounds the cooler. The plaintiff
alleges that to his left was a pallet full of inventory that
was located approximately 2 inches from the rail and 4-5
inches from the floor cooler. The plaintiff alleges that he
was scooting to his left between the floor cooler and the
pallet filled with inventory in order to see the inventory in
the floor cooler next to the pallet when his left foot came
into contact with the mounting, causing him to trip.
• The guard rail system in place at Store No. 531 is a
Star Guard product manufactured by SBI. SBI is one of four
top manufacturers which offers a guard rail product of this
design. This particular guard rail system is referred to as
the SSB guard rail system. The SSB system consists of a
horizontal stainless steel railing supported and attached to
the floor by vertical floor mounts, which allow installation
close to bunkers. The SSB system is used in grocery stores
and retail stores with grocery departments to protect bunkers
and coolers from damage.
• Wal-Mart argues the SSB guard rail system in place at
Store No. 531 is the same system in place at all Wal-Mart
stores and virtually every other grocery store in the nation,
and that this system consists of the industry standard for
protecting bunkers in grocery stores.
• Two of the top four manufacturers also offer a second
design, the CB model, which is attached to the floor with a
“C” shaped mount and is intended for high impact
applications such as in warehouses, stock rooms, and cart
• Guard rails are necessary to protect the refrigerated
bunkers from damage from shopping carts, pallet jacks, and
other equipment. Without the guard rails, the electrical and
plumbing components of the bunkers could be damaged,
resulting in loss of product and threat of injury to
customers, who could slip on liquid leaking from the broken
bunker or be injured by protruding metal or other pieces of
• As best evidenced by the photographs in this case, the
SSB guard rail system is easily observable. It is chrome in
color and consists of a railing completely surrounding the
bunker, supported by several floor mounts, each approximately
six and one-half (6 ½) inches tall.
• The SSB guard rail system does not violate any
building code, ordinance, statute, or other safety
• There is no evidence that the CB system is safer or
poses less of a tripping hazard than the SSB system. In fact,
the CB system, which is ordinarily used in high impact
applications where less customer traffic is expected, such as
in warehouses and cart corrals, actually poses
more of a tripping hazard, because
the CB floor attachment extends above the floor which could
cause a misstep, and because the mounting support extends
beyond the face of the rail into the aisle space.
• The placement of the pallet next to the meat bunker in
this case did not violate any Wal-Mart policy or safety code.
The accident occurred at 9:45 p.m., and the pallet of canned
goods was placed nearest the aisle where the goods were to be
• Since Wal-Mart Store No. 531 opened in 2000 until
plaintiff's accident, there have been no other reported
trip-and-fall accidents similar to plaintiff's involving
the guard rail system, despite millions of customers having
shopped at the meat bunkers during that time.
filed this action in this Court on April 27, 2016. Wal-Mart
filed the instant motion for summary judgment moving to
dismiss plaintiff's claims against it on grounds
plaintiff cannot prove that either the guard rail floor mount
or the placement of the pallet in this case presented an
unreasonable risk of harm to Wal-Mart customers or that such
was reasonably foreseeable as required under Louisiana's
slip-and-fall statute, La. Rev. Stat. §9:2800.6.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is
proper if the record discloses no genuine issue as to any
material fact such that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. No genuine issue of fact exists
if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational
trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio., 475 U.S.
574, 586 (1986). A genuine issue of fact exists only
“if the evidence is such that a ...