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Adams v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019

Linda Adams and Stacy King, on Behalf of Her Minor Child, D.K.
v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Store #542

          Appealed from the Thirty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Terrebonne • State of Louisiana Docket Number 175888 • Division "A" The Honorable George J. Larke, Jr., Presiding Judge

          Willie G. Johnson, Jr. Jennifer O. Robinson Sophia Riley Derek E. Elsey Baton Rouge, Louisiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS PLAINTIFFS- Linda Adams and Stacy King, on behalf of her minor child, D.K.

          Lynda A. Tafaro Isidro Rene Derojas Christopher James -Lomax New Orleans, Louisiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES DEFENDANTS- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C.

          Before: McClendon, Welch, and Holdridge, JJ.

          WELCH, J.

         A store patron appeals a summary judgment dismissing her slip and fall suit against the store. The trial court determined the patron failed to produce factual evidence to establish that she could carry her burden of proof at trial under the Merchant Liability Statute, La. R.S. 9:2800.6. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Linda Adams[1] filed suit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Store #542 ("Wal-Mart"), claiming she was injured on November 29, 2014, when she slipped and fell in a liquid substance on the floor at the Wal-Mart in Houma, Louisiana. After answering, Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment claiming the plaintiffs could not prove that Wal-Mart created the condition or had actual or constructive notice of the liquid substance on the floor. The plaintiffs opposed Wal-Mart's motion. After a hearing, the trial court signed a judgment on August 14, 2018, granting Wal-Mart's motion and dismissing the plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. The plaintiffs appeal, contending the trial court erred in granting summary judgment.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         Judgment must be rendered in Wal-Mart's favor, as the mover, if the pleadings, memoranda, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, certified medical records, written stipulations, and admissions show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that Wal-Mart is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3) and (4).

         The burden of proof on a motion for summary judgment rests with the mover, Wal-Mart. La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1). In this matter, Wal-Mart will not bear the burden of proof at trial; that burden of proof at trial rests with the plaintiffs. Accordingly, once the motion for summary judgment has been properly supported, then under La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1), Wal-Mart need only point out to the trial court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the plaintiffs' slip and fall claim.

         Thereafter, the burden shifts to the plaintiffs to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, or that Wal-Mart is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1). The plaintiffs may not rest on the mere allegations of denials in their pleadings, but their responses must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the plaintiffs do not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be rendered against them. See La. C.C.P. art. 967(B).

         Accordingly, once the motion for summary judgment has been properly supported by Wal-Mart, the failure of the plaintiffs to produce evidence of a material factual dispute mandates the granting of the motion. See Holt v. Torino, 2012-1579 (La.App. 1st Cir. 4/26/13), 117 So.3d 182, 184, writ denied, 2013-1161 (La. 8/30/13), 120 So.3d 267. If, however, Wal-Mart fails in its burden to show an absence of factual support for one or more of the elements of the plaintiffs' slip and fall claim, the burden never shifts to the plaintiffs, and Wal-Mart is not entitled to summary judgment. See Mitchell v. Aaron's Rentals, 2016-0619 (La.App. 1st Cir. 4/12/17), 218 So.3d 167, 172.

         In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, appellate courts review evidence de novo under the same criteria that govern the trial court's determination of whether summary judgment is appropriate. Juge v. Springfield Wellness, L.L.C., 2018-0736 (La.App. 1st ...


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