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Williams v. Supervalu, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

November 7, 2018

ADRIAN WILLIAMS
v.
SUPERVALU, INC.

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 764-729, DIVISION "K" HONORABLE ELLEN SHIRER KOVACH, JUDGE PRESIDING

          FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, ADRIAN WILLIAMS DaShawn P. Hayes

          FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, SUPERVALU, INC. AND MORAN FOODS, LLC D/B/A SAVE-A-LOT, LTD John T. Roethele Megan P. Foreman

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER JUDGE

         In this slip and fall case, plaintiff-patron appeals the judgment in favor of merchant-defendant rendered following a bench trial. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court judgment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 14, 2016, plaintiff, Adrian Williams, filed suit in the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson against Supervalu, Inc. and Moran Foods, LLC d/b/a Save-A-Lot (hereinafter "Save-A-Lot"), for personal injuries allegedly arising from a September 26, 2015 slip and fall accident at the Airline Drive Save-A-Lot store location. The matter proceeded to trial on October 10, 2017, before the Honorable Ellen Kovach.

         At trial, plaintiff testified that she was grocery shopping in the produce department of the Airline Drive Save-A-Lot store on September 26, 2015. As she walked through the produce section, she spoke briefly with a store employee, later identified as George Gibbs, stocking grapes onto the produce shelves. After speaking with Mr. Gibbs, as she walked away, she slipped on a purple grape on the floor and fell to the ground. Plaintiff testified that she hit her shoulder and busted her lip on the metal railing of the produce shelving, hit both knees onto the floor, and lost consciousness immediately after the fall. Plaintiff testified that she has no knowledge of how the grape fell onto the floor or for how long the grape was on the floor prior to her fall.

         Plaintiff testified that she sustained head, neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain from the accident. She treated with Southshore Physicians Group for her soft tissue injuries until she was referred for orthopedic care for her shoulder and knee pain. However, plaintiff testified that although she still suffered from pain at the time of trial, she could not afford to treat with an orthopedic specialist. She testified that she has not sought medical treatment for accident-related pain since February of 2016.[1]

         Scott Hammonds, the Save-A-Lot store manager, testified at trial that he was present on the date of plaintiff's fall and he responded to the produce department after the accident. Mr. Hammonds testified that he spoke with plaintiff, reviewed the surveillance videos from the time plaintiff entered the store through the time of her fall, and asked plaintiff to complete an incident report. Mr. Hammonds stated that when he reviewed the surveillance video, he observed Mr. Gibbs walk through the produce department to stock grapes onto the shelves. He stated he did not observe Mr. Gibbs drop any grapes on the floor while carrying the tray of grapes to restock. Furthermore, he testified that he observed another female customer pushing a cart in the produce section, who was putting a bag of grapes in her cart before the accident. He saw the same female customer taking the grapes out of her bag and snacking on the grapes approximately one minute before the accident. The video surveillance was introduced into evidence and played at trial. Mr. Hammonds pointed out to the court that, immediately after the other female customer pushed her cart to leave the produce section, a reddish grape appears on the floor. Immediately thereafter, another customer is seen walking towards the produce shelving and steps on the grape that is on the floor. Seconds later, plaintiff slips on the same grape. Mr. Hammonds testified, and the surveillance video reflects, that the grape was on the floor approximately 25 seconds before plaintiff's fall.

         After the accident, Mr. Hammonds completed a video incident report, in which he concluded, "Customer slipped on grape. Camera shot shows grape on floor 30 seconds prior [to] incident. Grape fell from cart. Customer, white female, red shirt." He concluded based upon the video surveillance that the grape plaintiff stepped on fell out of another customer's cart soon before plaintiff's fall. The incident report further reported that plaintiff complained of a busted lip and left knee pain.

         Mr. George Gibbs, the store's produce manager at the time of the accident, also testified at trial. He testified that he arrived to the store at 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the accident and began restocking produce. Concerning the grapes, he testified that he retrieved in total four crates of grapes from the warehouse. He explained that each crate contains cardboard trays of grapes from various manufacturers, which are each wrapped in cellophane packaging, and are to be restocked onto the produce shelves. The surveillance video reflects that Mr. Gibbs was restocking grapes at the time of plaintiff's fall.

         Dr. Theodore Irra with Southshore Physicians Group testified that he treated plaintiff for soft tissue injuries, including knee pain, from October 2, 2015, through December 14, 2015. Plaintiff reported that she slipped and fell in a grocery store and that she suffered from retrograde amnesia after the fall. Dr. Irra testified that his records reflect that plaintiff reported "waking up with her face pressed against the freezer. Patient had knot on her bottom lip and a small cut." Although plaintiff's other soft-tissue injury complaints resolved, plaintiff continued to complain of right shoulder and knee pain, which caused Dr. Irra to order an MRI of plaintiff's right knee and right shoulder. Dr. Irra testified that plaintiff's right knee MRI reflected a likely sprain of the anterior meniscus and a tear in the lateral meniscus. The right shoulder MRI reflected a probable nerve impingement. Dr. Irra discharged plaintiff on ...


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