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Martin v. Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 21, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21) filed by Defendants, PNK (Baton Rouge) Partnership and Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. seeking the dismissal of all claims brought by Plaintiff, Deborah Martin pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff filed an Opposition. (Doc. 27). Defendants then filed a Reply. (Doc. 30). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply. (Doc. 33). The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 25, 2016, Plaintiff was exiting the Bon Temps Buffet. ("Buffet") at L'Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge ("L'Auberge")[1] when she slipped on water on the floor, which she described, not as a puddle, "but [] more of a square" in shape, and approximately 60% of the length of a driver's license. (Doc. 21-1 at ¶ 1; Doc. 21-2 at p. 44). Plaintiff did not notice the water until after her fall, and observed the water for the first, time while on the ground. (Doc. 21-1 at ¶¶ 2-4; Doc. 21-2 at pp. 41, 51, 55). Video surveillance ("the video") establishes that no water or any other liquid/substance was spilled or dropped at least 19 minutes prior to Plaintiffs fall. (Doc. 26 at 21:00-21:19). The video further establishes that, without incident, exactly 37 patrons and/or employees passed through and over the exact area in the exit lane where Plaintiff fell. (Id.). In the moments after Plaintiffs fall, Defendants' employees placed a yellow "Wet Floor" sign near the area, and used a white towel to wipe the floor in the exact location where Plaintiffs foot is shown to slip. (Id. at 21:20, 21:23).

         Plaintiff filed her Petition in state court on November 7, 2016, which was removed to federal court on December 12, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable under Louisiana's Merchant Liability Statute, La. Rev. Stat. 9:2800.6, for damages caused by her slip and fall, which occurred on Defendants' premises. (Id.).


         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Klevenhagen, 28 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 1994)). At this stage, the Court does not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991), cert denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc., 939 F.2d at 1263.

         In sum, summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] 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. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment will lie only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on fde, together with affidavits if any, show 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." Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241 (5th Cir. 1972).


         A. Merchant Liability Under Louisiana Law

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff has no evidence that anyone employed at LAuberge had either actual or constructive notice of an unreasonably dangerous condition. (Doc. 21-5 at p. 3). Defendants further argue that Beth Lafleur ("Lafleur"), the Assistant Manager of the Buffet, was on duty on the date of Plaintiffs fall and that the first notice that anyone from LAuberge had of an issue with the exit lane was after Plaintiffs fall, which is evidenced by the numerous people (37 to be exact) able to safely exit the Buffet in the 19 minutes leading up to the fall-including three people within the minute preceding the fall, without incident, and that no one spilled any substance on the floor. (Id.; Doc. 26 at 21:00-21:19).

         Plaintiff argues that Defendants had constructive notice of the condition because such "notice is imputed to defendants due to the fact that the liquid hazard persisted on the floor . . . for at least 19 minutes prior to" the fall. (Doc. 27 at p. 1). Plaintiff further argues that Defendants' own manager, LaFleur, testified that neither she nor her subordinates performed any visual sweeps or physical sweeps of the exit lane at least 30 minutes to two hours before Plaintiffs fall. (Doc. 33).

         In order to establish merchant liability for a slip and fall in Louisiana, a ...

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