United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DEBORAH BROWN ET AL.
PROGRESSIVE WASTE SOLUTIONS OF LA, INC
ORDER AND REASONS
TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 23). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.
Deborah Brown alleges that she was injured while moving a
residential trashcan that Defendant Progressive Waste
Solutions of LA, Inc. left blocking the back door to her
business. She alleges that the connected lid of the trashcan
was left open after the trashcan was emptied by Defendant. As
she attempted to move the trashcan from in front of her
business while holding it by the handle, she stepped on the
connected lid and was pulled down on top of the trashcan.
Plaintiffs allege that Defendant was negligent in (1) leaving
the trashcan blocking the back door of their business and (2)
leaving the lid of the trashcan open.
has moved for summary judgment alleging that Plaintiffs
cannot succeed on their negligence claim because they cannot
show that it owed a duty because the trashcan was open and
obvious and did not present an unreasonable risk of harm.
Oral argument was held on November 29, 2018. This Court will
address each argument in turn.
judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, 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 a judgment as a matter of law." A genuine issue
of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
determining whether the movant is entitled to summary
judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable
to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his
favor. "If the moving party meets the
initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of
material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to
produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the
existence of a genuine issue for trial." Summary judgment
is appropriate if the non-movant "fails to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case." "In response
to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the
non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and
articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that
party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to
sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as
to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at
trial." "We do not... in the absence of any
proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove
the necessary facts." Additionally, "[t]he mere argued
existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion."
employs the duty-risk analysis in negligence cases, under
which plaintiffs bear the burden to prove that:
(1) the defendant had a duty to conform his conduct to a
specific standard (the duty element); (2) the defendant's
conduct failed to conform to the appropriate standard (the
breach element); (3) the defendant's substandard conduct
was a cause in fact of the plaintiffs injuries (the
cause-in-fact element); (4) the defendant's substandard
conduct was a legal cause of the plaintiffs injuries (the
scope of liability or scope of protection element); and (5)
the actual damages (the damages element).
Louisiana courts and federal courts applying Louisiana law
routinely grant motions for summary judgment dismissing tort
claims when plaintiffs cannot produce evidence of all five
elements. Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot
produce evidence of the duty element.
argue that Defendant was negligent in failing to place the
garbage bin in its original location after it was emptied and
instead leaving it open and blocking the door of their
business. Defendant argues that it had no duty to protect
Plaintiffs from the obvious placement of their trashcan.
"[A] defendant generally does not have a duty to protect
against that which is obvious and apparent. In order for an
alleged hazard to be considered obvious and apparent [the
Louisiana Supreme Court] has consistently stated the hazard
should be one that is open and obvious to everyone who may
potentially encounter it." "[I]f the facts and
circumstances of a particular case show a dangerous condition
should be open and obvious to all who encounter it, then the
condition may not be unreasonably dangerous and the defendant
may owe no duty to the plaintiff." Here, it
cannot seriously be argued that ...