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Johnson v. Blue Rock Partners, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 29, 2018




         This case is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Blue Rock Partners, LLC (“Blue Rock” or “Defendant”). (Doc. # 25). The Motion is fully briefed, and Defendant has filed evidentiary submissions. (Docs. # 26, 27, 31, 32). After careful review, the court concludes that the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 25) is due to be granted.

         I. Relevant Undisputed Facts[1]

         On August 29, 2015 around 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., [2] Plaintiff Mary Ann Johnson (“Plaintiff”) stepped into a hole as she was leaving her mailbox at the mail center of her apartment complex. (Doc. # 27-2 at p. 16, 24). Prior to the incident, Plaintiff admits that she was aware of the hole that caused her fall. (Id. at p. 6, 23). In fact, Plaintiff had noticed the hole for the first time when she had previously gone to her apartment mailbox and had reported the hole to Blue Rock because she was concerned that somebody may fall into it when the grass grew up over it. (Id. at p. 6, 23). Later, when Plaintiff stepped into the hole, she says the grass had grown over it. (Id. at p. 23). After her fall, she was transported to the emergency room and was later diagnosed with a broken ankle. (Id. at p. 17, 35-36).

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56 requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits, or depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir. 2007); Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249.

         When faced with a “properly supported motion for summary judgment, [the non-moving party] must come forward with specific factual evidence, presenting more than mere allegations.” Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales, Inc., 131 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 1997). As Anderson teaches, under Rule 56(c) a plaintiff may not simply rest on his allegations made in the complaint; instead, as the party bearing the burden of proof at trial, he must come forward with at least some evidence to support each element essential to his case at trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 248 (citations omitted).

         Summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “Summary judgment may be granted if the non-moving party's evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative.” Sawyer v. Sw. Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-51).

         “[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “Essentially, the inquiry is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Sawyer, 243 F.Supp.2d at 1262 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52); see also LaRoche v. Denny's, Inc., 62 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1371 (S.D. Fla. 1999) (“The law is clear . . . that suspicion, perception, opinion, and belief cannot be used to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”).

         IV. Analysis

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following claims against Defendant: (1) negligence, (2) recklessness and wantonness, (3) premises liability, and (4) respondeat superior and agency. (Doc. # 1-1 at p. 3-11). On January 22, 2018, based on Plaintiff's counsel's on-the-record statement that Plaintiff was not opposing dismissal of her recklessness and wantonness claim, the court dismissed Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. # 30). The court will address Plaintiff's remaining claims, in turn.

         A. Premises Liability Principles Govern Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff argues that her negligence and premises liability claims are separate and distinct claims. (Doc. # 31). ...

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