Appealed from the Second Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Claiborne, Louisiana Trial Court No. 41, 127
Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge.
NICHOLSON LAW FIRM, LLC By: Jeff Nicholson Counsel for
LAW FIRM, LLC By: Gregg A. Rozas Paul J. Tanner LUNN IRION
LAW FIRM LLC By: James A. Mijalis W. Orie Hunter, III Counsel
MOORE, PITMAN, and THOMPSON, JJ.
Laffitte appeals a summary judgment that dismissed her tort
claim arising from a trip-and-fall in a parking lot. For the
reasons expressed, we affirm.
Friday morning in June 2016, Ms. Laffitte went to the
Bill's Dollar Store in Homer, La., riding as a passenger
in her sister Debra Plunkett's Dodge Charger. They parked
in the handicap space that was closest to the entrance of the
store. This space pointed at a 45-degree angle to a grassy
median or "island" that was bordered on three sides
by a 5-inch standard curb and on the fourth side by a
concrete ramp running some 21 inches out into the parking
lot. Ms. Laffitte testified that she had been to Bill's
about 20 times, but had never used this particular space
Laffitte exited the Charger, crossed the access aisle (the
striped space adjacent to every handicap parking space), and,
after she got past the island, turned left to walk directly
into the front door of Bill's. However, she did not
notice that the ramp crossed at that spot. She stumbled on
it, falling down and breaking her hip.
Laffitte filed this suit against D&J Commercial
Properties LLC, the owner of the shopping center, and EMC
Property & Casualty, its insurer (collectively,
"D&J"). She alleged that the curb contained a
defective condition that posed an unreasonable risk of harm,
and that D&J knew or should have known about this
condition but failed to correct it or warn about it.
moved for summary judgment contending that Ms. Laffitte could
not prove either defect or knowledge, elements required by
La. C.C. art. 2317.1. In support, it attached portions of Ms.
Laffitte's deposition. In these, Ms. Laffitte disclosed
that she suffered from diabetes, has lost all her right toes
and three of her left toes, has no sensation at all in her
feet, wears special diabetic shoes, and is authorized to use
handicap parking. She testified that when she got out of the
Charger, she "walked right by there, thinking * * * it
was level. And this right here was not level. It had that
incline." She admitted there was nothing to prevent her
from seeing the ramp, and she was unaware whether anybody
else had ever stumbled on it, but, "It wasn't
painted nothing showing no danger [sic] right there,
the height there."
also attached portions of Ms. Plunkett's deposition,
which mostly confirmed her sister's testimony. She
asserted that Ms. Laffitte stumbled on a slope
"that's not marked in any way."
D&J attached portions of the deposition of Larry D. Nokes
Jr., who had been a tenant of the shopping center since 2005
and its owner (through D&J, his LLC) since 2015. He
testified that around 2006, the prior owner had overlaid the
parking lot and installed the islands, for aesthetic
purposes; the ramp at the end of each island was so tractors
could get onto the raised portion and mow the grass. Further,