APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CIVIL DISTRICT COURT,
ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-11307, DIVISION "A"
Honorable Ellen M Hazeur, Judge.
Richard G. Duplantier, Jr. Lindsey M. Soboul GALLOWAY JOHNSON
TOMPKINS BURR & SMITH, COUNSEL FOR THE RELATOR/DEFENDANT.
Fields Jon Wasielewski LAW OFFICE OF TIM L. FIELDS, COUNSEL
FOR THE RESPONDENT/PLAINTIFF.
composed of Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Rosemary Ledet,
Judge Dale N. Atkins.
Rosemary Ledet Judge.
a tort suit. The Relator, The Howard Hughes Corporation
("Howard Hughes"), filed an application for
supervisory writ, seeking review of the trial court's
judgment denying its motion for summary judgment. In
accordance with the requirements of La. C.C.P. art. 966(H),
ordered additional briefing by the parties and heard oral
arguments. For the reasons that follow, we grant Howard
Hughes' writ application, reverse the trial court's
ruling denying its summary judgment motion, and render
summary judgment dismissing Ms. Maddox's claims against
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
November 29, 2014, at about 10:45 p.m., Ms. Maddox slipped
and fell while walking down a non-moving escalator at the
Riverwalk Shopping Center (the "Riverwalk") in New
Orleans, Louisiana. Ms. Maddox went to the Riverwalk that
night to deliver a set of keys to her daughter, who was
working as the manager of one of the restaurants in the food
court. To get to the restaurant, which was located on an
upper level of the Riverwalk, Ms. Maddox took an elevator.
While at the restaurant, Ms. Maddox helped her daughter take
out the garbage to a back hallway where the restaurants in
the food court place their garbage and grease traps. After
taking out the garbage, Ms. Maddox attempted to exit the
Riverwalk using the same route by which she had entered.
Although the mall closed at 9:00 p.m., other patrons were
Maddox was leaving, she observed that cleaning machines,
which the cleaning company was using, had deposited water on
the floor. After discovering that the elevator was turned
off, Ms. Maddox walked through the water to the escalator,
which likewise was turned off. Nonetheless, she decided to
walk down the non-moving escalator, using it as a flight of
stairs. When she stepped on the third step, Ms. Maddox's
leg went out from under her and she fell, sustaining personal
to recover for her personal injuries, Ms. Maddox commenced
this suit against, among others, Howard Hughes. Howard Hughes was
sued in its capacity as the owner and operator of the
Riverwalk and, by extension, its escalator. In her petition,
Ms. Maddox alleged that Howard Hughes' is liable to her
for its negligence as a "merchant" under La. R.S.
2800.6 and as the owner of the premises and, by extension,
the escalator under La. C.C. art. 2317.1. In addition, Ms.
Maddox alleges that Howard Hughes may be held liable under
the theory of res ipsa loqitur.
taking Ms. Maddox's deposition, Howard Hughes filed a
motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial
court denied the motion. In its oral reasons for judgment,
the trial court observed as follows:
[T]here are issues on both sides whether or not the turning
off of that escalator and the subsequent fall of the lady was
contributed to in some manner by which there was no posting
of a sign of warning or that the escalator was wet in some
fashion. And whether or not these matters contributed to her
incident is something that the trier of fact should
determine. We do not make a determination on the merits of
the case here, nor do we make a determination as to whether
or not the escalator was unreasonably dangerous. The trier of
fact is going to have to determine whether . . . there was
some negligence on the part of the owner of this
writ application followed. As noted at the outset, we granted
Howard Hughes' writ to address whether the trial court
erred in denying its motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons that follow, we answer that question in the
summary judgment procedure is used when there is no genuine
issue of material fact for all or part of the relief prayed
for by a litigant. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3) (observing that
"[a] motion for summary judgment is "a procedural
vehicle for dismissing issues of law and/or fact that are not
in dispute"). "A defendant can successfully move
for summary judgment if he or she can demonstrate beyond
peradventure the nonexistence of a fact essential to the
plaintiff's cause of action." Frank L. Maraist, 1
La. Civ. L. Treatise, Civil Procedure § 6:8 (2d ed.
2018). The summary judgment procedure is "designed to
secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of
every action," and the summary judgment procedure is
favored. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(2).
courts review the grant or denial of a motion for summary
judgment de novo, employing the same criteria that
govern the trial court's determination of whether summary
judgment is appropriate. Garces-Rodriguez v. GEICO Indem.
Co., 16-196, p. 3 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/21/16), 209 So.3d
389, 391; Sislo v. New Orleans Ctr. for Creative
Arts, 16-0178, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 8/17/16), 198 So.3d
1202, 1205 (citing Samaha v. Rau, 07-1726, pp. 3-4
(La. 2/26/08), 977 So.2d 880, 882-83). The standard for
granting a motion for summary judgment is set forth in La.
C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3), which provides:
After 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 ...