FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2014-05457,
DIVISION "B-1" Honorable Rachael Johnson Judge
Palazzo Jason J. Markey PALAZZO LAW FIRM COUNSEL FOR
J. Lowenthal, Jr. Madeleine Fischer JONES WALKER, L.L.P.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE
composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet,
Judge Tiffany G. Chase
Tiffany G. Chase, Judge
slip and fall negligence action, Christine Perrin
(hereinafter "Ms. Perrin"), seeks review of the
trial court's January 24, 2018 judgment granting the
motion for summary judgment filed by Ochsner Baptist Medical
Center, LLC (hereinafter "Ochsner"). After
consideration of the record before this Court, and the
applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court for
the following reasons.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
material facts of this case are not in dispute. On June 18,
2013, Ms. Perrin arrived at Ochsner Baptist hospital for a
scheduled appointment. Entering the second floor of the Clara
building from the parking garage, she encountered a scene as
depicted by her own photograph and diagram submitted into
evidence.The carpeted waiting area was wet, having
been cleaned earlier in the day. A blower fan sat in the
middle of the carpeted area, and two yellow caution signs
were positioned on the tile walkway near the two entrances.
Ms. Perrin walked across the carpeted area towards the
registration desk. In her deposition testimony she stated
that, at the time of her crossing, she did not see any
caution signs. She did notice the blower and thought the
carpet might have been wet. As she stepped off the carpeted
area onto the tiled walkway, she slipped, fell, and allegedly
sustained injuries. A "code sprint" was called to
alert hospital staff that a visitor had fallen. Arriving at
the scene were Chaplain Sherryl Billot, Nurse Melissa Kent
(hereinafter "Nurse Kent"), and Security Officer
Andre Russo (hereinafter "Officer Russo"). Ms.
Perrin was eventually transported to the emergency room.
Officer Russo conducted an interview with Ms. Perrin, and all
of the responding Ochsner employees completed incident
Perrin filed suit, alleging Ochsner was negligent and
strictly liable for the injuries she sustained. Ochsner filed
for summary judgment arguing Ms. Perrin could not prove the
element of duty as the wet carpet, marked with caution signs
and a blower, was open and obvious and did not present an
unreasonable risk of harm. Ms. Perrin opposed alleging the
existence of numerous issues of material fact, which
precluded summary judgment. A hearing was held on December 1,
2017. Ruling from the bench, the trial court granted
Ochsner's motion for summary judgment based on the open
and obvious doctrine as the caution signs gave reasonable
notice that a potential risk awaited if someone were to
traverse the area. The judgment was reduced to writing on
January 24, 2018.
Perrin filed a motion for new trial which was heard on
September 12, 2018. The trial court denied the motion
determining that, upon reviewing the record and photographs,
there was no additional information provided that would
suggest the original judgment was contrary to the law. This
courts review the grant or denial of a motion for summary
judgment de novo, using the same criteria that
govern a trial court's determination of whether summary
judgment is appropriate. Maddox v. Howard Hughes
Corp., 2019-0135, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/17/19), 268
So.3d 333, 337 (collecting cases). Louisiana C.C.P. art.
966(A)(3) provides "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." In Maddox, this Court observed:
A genuine issue is one as to which reasonable persons could
disagree; if reasonable persons could reach only one
conclusion, there is no need for trial on that issue, and
summary judgment is appropriate. Smith v. Our Lady of the
Lake Hosp., Inc., 93-2512, p. 27 (La. 7/5/94), 639 So.2d
730, 751. "A fact is material when its existence or
nonexistence may be essential to the plaintiffs [sic] cause
of action under the applicable theory of recovery; 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." Chapital v. Harry
Kelleher & Co., Inc., 13-1606, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir.
6/4/14), 144 So.3d 75, 81. Whether a fact is material is a
determination that must be made based on the applicable
substantive law. Roadrunner Transp. Sys. v. Brown,
17-0040, p. 7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/10/17), 219 So.3d 1265, 1270
(citing Smith, supra).
Maddox, 2019-0135, p. 5, 268 So.3d at 337. Thus, our
inquiry focuses on whether reasonable minds would inevitably
conclude that Ochsner is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law on the facts before this Court. See Chatelain v.
Fluor Daniel Const. Co., 2014-1312, p. 3
(La.App. 4 Cir. 11/10/15), 179 So.3d 791, 793.
any material factual issue, summary judgment is appropriate
when a condition is open and obvious such that it does not
present an unreasonable risk of harm. See Jones v.
Stewart, 2016-0329, p. 14 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/5/16), 203
So.3d 384, 393 (observing that "in a trio of cases, [the
Louisiana Supreme Court has] held that, absent any material
factual issue, the summary judgment procedure can be used to
determine whether a defect is open and obvious and thus does
not present an unreasonable risk of harm") (citing
Bufkin v. Felipe's Louisiana, LLC, 2014-0288
(La. 10/15/14), 171 So.3d 851; Rodriguez v. Dolgencorp,
LLC, 2014-1725 (La. 11/14/14), 152 So.3d 871; Allen
v. Lockwood, 2014-1724 (La. 2/13/15), 156 So.3d 650).
must first meet its burden to produce evidence pointing out
the lack of factual support for an essential element of Ms.
Perrin's case, demonstrating that because the
complained-of condition was obvious and apparent and was
reasonably safe for guests exercising ordinary care and
prudence, it had no duty to extend additional warnings to its
guests. See Bufkin, 2014-0288, p. 12, 171 So.3d at
859; La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1). The burden would then shift