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Ratcliff v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 29, 2018

DIANE RATCLIFF
v.
WINN-DIXIE STORES, INC., ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 30) filed by Defendants, Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC, and Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (collectively, “Winn-Dixie”), an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 32) filed by Diane Ratcliff (“Plaintiff”), and a reply (Rec. Doc. 35) filed by Winn-Dixie. Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This litigation derives from a slip and fall accident that occurred at a Winn-Dixie store located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Plaintiff alleges that on August 4, 2016, while grocery shopping with her friend, Paul Steiner (“Mr. Steiner”), she slipped on a puddle of water located on the floor of Winn-Dixie's freezer aisle. On March 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Winn-Dixie in Orleans Civil District Court for damages sustained as a result of the fall. Plaintiff alleges in her state court petition that Winn- Dixie failed to maintain its premises in a safe and hazard free condition, failed to warn its patrons of a hazardous and dangerous condition, failed to repair a hazardous and dangerous condition, failed to maintain a safe place for its customers, and failed to insure the safety of its visitors. Plaintiff also alleges that she suffered injuries to her right hip, right buttock, neck, back, and right knee as a result of Winn-Dixie's negligent acts.

         Winn-Dixie subsequently removed the case to this Court on May 10, 2017, and, on February 27, 2018, filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 30). Winn-Dixie argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff has failed to establish its liability under Louisiana's Merchant Liability Statute. Specifically, Winn-Dixie asserts that Plaintiff has failed to establish: (1) that it either created or had actual or constructive notice of the puddle; (2) that the puddle presented an unreasonable risk of harm; and (3) that it failed to exercise reasonable care. Plaintiff opposes the motion. The motion is now before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         DISCUSSION

         La. R.S. 9:2800.6 governs negligence actions against merchants for injuries sustained because of a fall due to a condition existing in or on a merchant's premises. See La. R.S. 9:2800.6. Specifically, the statute provides:

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 ...

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