United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
PATRICIA K. GULLEDGE, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART INC., Defendant.
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 14). The parties have fully briefed
the Motion (Docs. # 14, 16, 17, 21, 23), and it is under
submission. After careful review, and for the reasons
explained below, the court concludes that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be granted.
Patricia K. Gulledge fell and injured herself while at the
Hoover, Alabama Wal-Mart. (Doc. # 17 at 2). She was shopping
for coffee for a weight loss center where she worked at the
time of the incident. (Doc. # 14-3 at 91-92,
97-98). However, before she reached the grocery
portion of the store by way of the Garden Center entrance,
Plaintiff stopped in the three-aisle Easter section to look
at a stuffed animal for her dog. (Id. at 86, 99).
Plaintiff did not see an employee cleaning the floor, nor did
she slip or slide as she walked across the store.
(Id. at 98, 111). While walking to the stuffed
animals on the first aisle of the Easter section, despite
believing that the floor looked unusually bright and shiny,
Plaintiff did not see anything either out of place or on the
floor, such as any liquid or merchandise. (Id. at
111, 113-14). She grabbed a stuffed animal from the shelf and
put it back. (Id. at 118-19). The last thing
Plaintiff remembers is turning away from the stuffed animal
and beginning to walk down the aisle. (Id. at
118-19). At least one shopper, Joe Wilson, heard Plaintiff
scream, but no one was on the aisle at the time of the
incident to witness her fall. (Id. at 119-20).
photos show three stuffed animals and an Easter basket on the
floor close to the shelves and a highlighter near the middle
of the aisle. (Doc. # 14-7 at 6-10). But, there is no
evidence in the record from which a reasonable jury could
find that these items were on the floor at the time of the
incident. Instead, Plaintiff's deposition and the
affidavit of Stephanie Turpin, another customer who was
shopping at the time of the fall, create an undisputed record
that the aisle was clear at the time of, and immediately
following, the incident. (Docs. # 14-3 at 119-124; 14-7 at 2-4).
Plaintiff candidly does not know what caused her to fall.
(Doc. # 14-3 at 123-24, 129-30).
Summary Judgment Standard
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 seeking
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 dispute of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56 requires the nonmoving party to go
beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on
file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine dispute for trial. Id. at 324.
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 nonmovant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ.
for Bibb Cty., 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.
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.
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
v. Sw. Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1262 (D. Kan.
2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).
has conceded her claims for wantonness (Count II) and
negligent supervision and training (Count IV), and they are
due to be dismissed. (Docs. # 17 at 10; 21 at 10-11). Also,
though Plaintiff argues that her negligence and premises
liability claims are separate and distinct claims, this
argument fails as a matter of law. Plaintiff has a single
claim against Defendant based on premises liability
deciding which theory of law is proper between general
negligence and premises liability under Alabama law, the
court considers whether affirmative conduct of the landowner
or a condition of the premises caused the injury. Baldwin
v. Gartman, 604 So.2d 347, 349 (Ala. 1992) (applying
premises liability principles when an employee left a
concrete slab unbalanced on the premises because leaving the
slab unattended did not cause the injury; rather, leaving the
slab created a dangerous condition); Powell v. Piggly
Wiggly Ala. Distrib. Co., Inc., 60 So.3d 921, 924 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2010) (holding that general negligence principles
apply when an employee operating a forklift struck the
plaintiff causing injury). If affirmative conduct of the
landowner caused the injury, then general negligence
principles apply. Powell, 60 So.3d at 924.
But, if a condition of the premises caused the injury, then
the principles of premises liability apply. Baldwin,
604 So.2d at 348-50.
premises liability action based on a fall, a plaintiff must
prove (1) that her fall was caused by a defect or
instrumentality located on the defendant's premises, (2)
that the fall was the result of the defendant's
negligence, and (3) that the defendant had or should have had
notice of the defect or instrumentality before the accident.
Logan v. Winn-Dixie Atlanta, Inc., 594 So.2d 83, 84
(Ala. 1992) (utilizing premises liability principles when
plaintiff slipped on an allegedly slick entrance ramp from
wet paint); Miller v. Archstone Cmty. Tr., 797 So.2d
1099, 1102 (Ala Civ. App. 2001) (applying premises liability
principles to a slip-and-fall case in an apartment complex
parking lot allegedly occurring from improperly poured
sealant). In this ...