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Courington v. Wal-Mart Louisiana LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

February 2, 2018





         Before the court is "Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment" (R. #12) wherein Defendant, Wal-Mart, moves for summary judgment in its favor pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         In her Complaint, Plaintiff, Shelly Courington, alleges that she slipped and fell on an ice cube in Wal-Mart resulting in serious personal injuries.[1]


         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[2] A fact is "material" if its existence or nonexistence "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law."[3] A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.[4] As to issues which the non-moving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy this burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claim."[5] Once the movant makes this showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.[6] The burden requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. The non-moving party must demonstrate by way of affidavit or other admissible evidence that there are genuine issues of material fact or law.[7] There is no genuine issue of material fact if, viewing the evidence in the light more favorable to the non-moving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party.[8] If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.[9] The court will construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, but will not infer the existence of evidence not presented.[10]


         In this slip and fall case, Wal-Mart maintains that there is no evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial that (1) Wal-Mart created or caused the ice to be on the floor; (2) Wal-Mart knew that the ice was on the floor prior to the accident; (3) the ice was on the floor for a period of time prior to the accident; and that (4) Wal-Mart failed to exercise reasonable care.

         On or about April 29, 2016, after checking out her groceries, Plaintiff slipped and fell on a piece of ice in front of the restrooms; Plaintiff was with Patrick Dick and they both agreed that the ice was still intact at the time of the accident.[11] Mr. Dick testified in his deposition that "[i]t couldn't have been there very long because it was still good-sized cubes of ice."[12] Defendant has submitted as summary judgment evidence a video surveillance which reveals that the accident occurred at 4:45 p.m., however, there is no indication as to how or when the ice got on the floor.[13]

         In opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff remarks that the accident occurred near an ice cooler at the front of the store.[14] Plaintiff maintains that the ice was present on the floor long enough to have melted and cause water to be on the floor at the time of the fall.[15] In her deposition, Plaintiff testified as follows:

A. I just saw ice, and then there was water, so I knew it had to melt. You know, it had been there long enough for some of the ice to melt. That's all I know.
Q. But there was definitely still some pieces of ice there -
A. Yes.

         Plaintiff concedes that there is no direct evidence of where the ice and water came from, but relies on the video surveillance to show that the ice and water had come from an ice cooler near the accident scene. Plaintiff argues that Defendant is liable for failing to maintain a non-slip mat in accordance with its policy, in front of the ice machine at the time of the accident.

         Louisiana Revised Statute 9:2800.6 governs slip-and-fall accidents in merchant retail stores and is as follows:

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 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 ...

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