United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE JUDGE.
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment in a case
arising out of an alleged slip-and-fall inside a Wal-Mart
store. [Record Documents 29 and 31]. Wal-Mart Louisiana LLC
("Wal-Mart") seeks summary judgment on all issues.
[Record Document 29]. Stacey Washington
('"Washington") moves for judgment on the issue
of liability, arguing that the Court should draw an adverse
inference from Wal-Mart's deletion of a surveillance
video that may have shown the location where Washington
allegedly fell. [Record Document 31]. Because Washington has
not raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding
Wal-Mart's alleged bad faith, she is not entitled to the
requested inference. Without that inference, she has not
established a factual dispute as to Wal-Mart's
constructive notice of the clear liquid in which she
allegedly fell. For this reason, Wal-Mart's motion
[Record Document 29] is GRANTED, and
Washington's motion is DENIED [Record
alleges that she slipped and fell in the Wal-Mart store on
Mansfield Road in Shreveport, Louisiana as she was leaving
after paying for her purchases. [Record Document 1-5 at 1-2].
Although she did not see the alleged substance in which she
slipped prior to falling, she concluded that she must have
slipped in a clear liquid because her dress was wet after she
was helped off the floor. [Record Document 29-3 at 3, 5,
8-9]. She has also testified that she did not see anyone
spill anything on the floor while she was checking out of the
store and that cashiers could, when turning to bag items, see
the spot on the floor where the liquid was allegedly located.
[Record Documents 29-3 at 10-11, 13 and 34-2 at 3].
returning home, she called the store and told a manager that
she "had fallen when [she] was getting ready to leave
the store, " injuring her hand, knees, and ankle.
[Record Document 31-7 at 17]. Washington has since clarified
that she told the manager that she fell "in the front
end of the store near the cash registers that
afternoon." [Record Document 31-2 at 2]. The manager
asked her to come into the store to make a statement and
identify precisely where she fell, which she did not do
because "my attorney told me he would handle all of
that." [Record Documents 31-7 at 17 and 31-6 at 32-33].
A few days later, Washington's counsel mailed a letter to
the store, which stated in its entirety:
Please be advised that I have been retained by Ms. Stacey
Washington to represent her in connection with a slip and
fall injury that occurred at your facility on April 24, 2015.
Please immediately forward me the
name of your premise's liability insurer and the policy
Please direct all correspondence and communication with my
client to my office.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact
Document 29-6 at 70]. All security camera footage from the day
of the accident was subsequently destroyed pursuant to
Wal-Mart's policy to record over surveillance footage on
a regular schedule unless specific footage has been marked
for retention. [Record Documents 29-4 at 2, 31-1 at 4, and 36
Plaintiff filed her suit, Wal-Mart moved for summary
judgment, which this Court denied as premature because
discovery had not been completed. [Record Documents 6 and
13]. The discovery deadline has now passed. Both parties have
filed oppositions, Wal-Mart has replied, and Washington's
deadline to reply has passed, making the motions ripe for
adjudication. [Record Documents 34-37].
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs a court to "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." Summary judgment is
appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories,
admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party,
the moving party need not produce evidence to negate the
elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it need
only point out the absence of supporting evidence. See
Id. at 322-23. However, "if the movant bears the
burden of proof on an issue, ... he must establish beyond
peradventure all of the essential elements of the
claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor."
Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th
movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is
no genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmovant must
demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for trial
by going "beyond the pleadings" and
"designating] specific facts" for support.
Utile v. Liquid Air Corp.,37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325).
"This burden is not satisfied with some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts, " by conclusory or
unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere "scintilla of
evidence." Id. (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). However, "[t]he evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences
are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1985) (citing
Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co.,398 U.S. 144, 158-59
(1970)). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating the
credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary
judgment where the ...