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Owens v. McIlhenny Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 27, 2019

JOHN C. OWENS
v.
MCILHENNY COMPANY, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA, NO. 129546 HONORABLE KEITH RAYNE JULES COMEAUX, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Robert L. Marrero Robert L. Marrero, LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: John C. Owens

          Kimberly G. Anderson COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: McIlhenny Company Jungle Gardens, Inc.

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Billy Howard Ezell, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          BILLY HOWARD EZELL JUDGE

         John Owens filed suit against McIlhenny Company and Jungle Gardens, Inc., for injuries he sustained when he tripped and fell on a concrete pad while walking through the gardens. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants, and Mr. Owens filed the present appeal. For the following reason, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTS

         According to Mr. Owens' petition, he and his wife and three cousins visited Jungle Gardens at Avery Island on February 16, 2016.[1] After touring other areas of the gardens, the group went to the Palm Garden area. Mr. Owens stepped onto a concrete pad on a pathway and began to fall. He broke his fall by stretching out his hands. In the process, Mr. Owens severely injured both his wrists, which required surgery. He also claims he injured his neck and back.

         Mr. Owens filed suit against McIlhenny Company and Jungle Gardens on January 9, 2017. The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on May 24, 2018. A hearing was held on July 18, 2018. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court determined that the Defendants were entitled to summary judgment under La.Civ.Code art. 2317.1 . Mr. Owens then filed the present appeal.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         In reviewing a trial court's determination of whether summary judgment is appropriate, an appellate court utilizes a de novo standard of review and applies the same standard of review that the trial court does. Schroeder v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ., 591 So.2d 342 (La.1991).

         "[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.Code Civ.P. art. 966(A)(3). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the trial court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Hines v. Garrett, 04-806 (La. 6/25/04), 876 So.2d 764.

         The mover bears the burden of proving it is entitled to summary judgment unless "the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment[.]" La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(D)(1). In that case, the mover is not required to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim but only need point out the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim. Id. The burden is then "on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.

         It is the applicable substantive law that determines whether the trial court's grant of summary judgment was appropriate. Davidson v. Sanders, 18-308 (La.App. 3 Cir. 12/6/18), __ So.3d__. At the hearing, the trial court was presented with the issue of the applicability of the Louisiana Merchant Liability Act under La.R.S. 9:2800.6 or premises liability under La.Civ.Code art. 2317.1. The trial ...


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