APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 740-330, DIVISION
"M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, LISA TAYLOR DAVID I.
COURCELLE, SCOTT C. STANSBURY, BERNARD A. DUPUY
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL, INC.,
LAURICELLA LAND COMPANY, LLC, ELMWOOD VILLAGE CENTER, LLC,
LAURICELLA & ASSOCIATES, INC., ELMWOOD RETAIL PROPERTIES,
LLC AND TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY STEPHANIE MCLAUGHLIN
composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and John
J. Molaison, Jr.
G. GRAVOIS, JUDGE
trip and fall case, plaintiff, Lisa Taylor, appeals a summary
judgment granted in favor of defendants, Lauricella Land
Company, LLC, Lauricella & Associates, Inc., Elmwood
Village Center, LLC, Elmwood Retail Properties, LLC, and
Travelers Property Casualty Company of America
("defendants"), dismissing her suit with prejudice.
In her petition for damages, Ms. Taylor alleged that she
sustained injuries after she tripped and fell on an expansion
joint in the concrete parking lot adjacent to the Chipotle
restaurant belonging to Chipotle Mexican Grill of Colorado,
L.L.C. ("Chipotle") on Clearview Parkway in
Elmwood, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. On appeal, Ms. Taylor
argues that the trial court erred in granting judgment in
favor of defendants, contending that genuine issues of
material fact remain outstanding regarding whether the
expansion joint was unreasonably dangerous or open and
obvious. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
16, 2013, Ms. Taylor was on her way home to Avondale from her
workplace in Metairie when she decided to stop at the
Chipotle restaurant to pick up dinner to bring home. She
testified in her deposition that she had stopped at this
particular Chipotle restaurant a couple of times before to
pick up food. After she parked her car, Ms. Taylor traversed
the parking lot to the entrance of the Chipotle restaurant,
but as she walked by the handicapped parking space, she
stepped on an expansion joint in the parking lot, which
caused her wedge shoe to tip sideways. Ms. Taylor tripped and
fell, breaking her arm, as well as sustaining bruises and
scrapes to her leg. Her injuries were treated that evening at
a hospital. Ms. Taylor's arm required surgery to repair
two broken bones with a plate and screws.
Taylor filed suit against defendants and Chipotle on July 15,
2014, alleging that the expansion joint that she tripped upon
was a defect in the parking lot that was unreasonably
dangerous to pedestrians.
discovery was conducted, defendant Chipotle moved for summary
judgment on the basis that it had no legal or contractual
responsibility to maintain the parking lot where the accident
occurred. Chipotle's motion for summary judgment was
granted, dismissing it from the case with prejudice. This
judgment was not appealed and is final.
remaining defendants moved for summary judgment on July 20,
2017, alleging that the expansion joint in question did not
pose an unreasonable risk to pedestrians as a matter of law
because the depth and measurements of the joint complied with
relevant safety codes, as determined by defendants'
expert, William Argus, AIA, an architect, following an
inspection of the expansion joint. Defendants supported their
motion for summary judgment with Ms. Taylor's deposition,
the expert report of Mr. Argus, as well as photos of the
parking lot and the expansion joint. Defendants further
argued that the expansion joint was open and obvious, and
thus did not pose an unreasonable risk of harm to
Taylor opposed defendants' motion for summary judgment,
supporting her contention that the expansion joint was
unreasonably dangerous with the report of her expert witness,
Ladd P. Ehlinger, AIA, also an architect.
matter was heard on November 28, 2017, after which the trial
court took the matter under advisement. The trial court
rendered a written judgment on December 13, 2017, granting
summary judgment in favor of all remaining defendants and
dismissing Ms. Taylor's suit with prejudice. The trial
court did not issue reasons for judgment. This timely appeal
appeal, Ms. Taylor argues that genuine issues of material
fact remain outstanding regarding whether the expansion joint
she tripped on was unreasonably dangerous, noting that her
expert concluded that the depth of the expansion joint
exceeded permissible values as found in relevant building and
construction codes. She also notes the discrepancies in the
measurements of the joint contained in the parties'
experts' reports. She also argues that a material issue
of fact remains as to whether the expansion joint was open
and obvious, because the fact of the elevation differences
was not apparent unless inspected at close range.
an opportunity for adequate discovery, a motion for summary
judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and
supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as
to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3). A fact is
material if it potentially insures or precludes recovery,
affects a litigant's ultimate success, or determines the
outcome of the legal dispute. A genuine issue of material
fact is one as to which reasonable persons could disagree; if
reasonable persons could reach only one ...