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Lewis v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 15, 2020

LANETTE LEWIS Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC. AND XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana Trial Court No. 59352 Honorable Bruce Edward Hampton, Judge

          GORDON MCKERNAN INJURY ATTORNEYS By: Harold Dean Lucius, Jr. Counsel for Appellant

          BLANCHARD, WALKER, O'QUINN & ROBERTS By: Stacey Denise Williams Scott R. Wolf Counsel for Appellee

          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and STONE, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         Plaintiff, Lanette Lewis ("Ms. Lewis"), appeals the trial court decision granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart"), finding that there are no genuine issues of material fact with respect to the temporal period in an action to impose merchant liability. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 27, 2017, Ms. Lewis filed suit against Wal-Mart and its liability insurer, XYZ Insurance Company, under the merchant theory of liability pursuant to La. R.S. 9:2800.6.[1] Ms. Lewis alleged that on or about January 2, 2017, she began shopping at Wal-Mart Store #23 located in Ruston, Louisiana, between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. She completed her shopping and attempted to pay for her items at a register in the garden center, but was redirected by a sales associate to complete her purchase at a cash register located at the front of the store instead. As she was walking from the garden center toward the front of the store, she slipped in a puddle of water on the floor in or near the pharmacy department and sustained severe and painful injuries.

         On February 8, 2018, Wal-Mart filed its answer, denying any liability for Ms. Lewis' injuries, and further alleged that Ms. Lewis' own failure to keep a proper lookout, observe her surroundings, and exercise reasonable care for the safety and protection of her own person, were the causes of her injuries. Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment on December 11, 2018, arguing that Ms. Lewis cannot carry her burden of proving that "the defendant either created the condition or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the damage prior to the occurrence."

         A brief hearing on Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment was held on February 14, 2019, after which time the trial court took the matter under advisement. On April 8, 2019, the trial court issued its "Reasons on Ruling," finding that based on the law and evidence presented, there remains no genuine issues of material fact with respect to the temporal period, and summary judgment is appropriate. The trial court filed its written judgment to that effect on May 3, 2019. Ms. Lewis filed this instant appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         By her single assignment of error, Ms. Lewis argues that the trial court was incorrect in granting Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment, finding that there are no genuine issues of material fact present to be decided by the trier of fact. She contends that the trial court failed to consider the written discovery she submitted in opposition which would preclude granting summary judgment. We agree.

         A motion for summary judgment is a procedural device used when there is no genuine issue of material fact for all or part of the relief prayed for by a litigant. Samaha v. Rau, 2007-1726 (La. 02/26/08), 977 So.2d 880; Chesney v. Entergy La., L.L.C., 51, 718 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/15/17), 245 So.3d 281, writ denied, 2017-2095 (La. 2/9/18); Driver Pipeline Co., Inc. v. Cadeville Gas Storage, L.L.C., 49, 375 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/01/14), 150 So.3d 492, writ denied, 2014-2304 (La. 01/23/15), 159 So.3d 1058. On appeal, a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment is reviewed pursuant to the de novo standard of review. Jones v. Estate of Santiago, 03-1424 (La. 04/14/04), 870 So.2d 1002; Chesney, supra; Henderson v. Union Pac. R.R., 41, 596 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/15/06), 942 So.2d 1259.

         Appellate courts review summary judgments under the same criteria that govern the district court's consideration of whether summary judgment is appropriate. Schroeder v. Board of Sup'rs of La. State Univ., 591 So.2d 342 (La. 1991); Weaver v. City of Shreveport, 52, 407 (La.App. 2 Cir. 12/19/18), 261 So.3d 1082; Chesney, supra; Lewis v. Coleman, 48, 173 (La.App. 2 Cir. 06/26/13), 118 So.3d 492, writ ...


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