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Black-Marshall v. Dillard's, Inc.

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

July 31, 2019

LINDA BLACK-MARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
DILLARD'S INC., HIGBEE SALVA, L.P., d/b/a DILLARD'S et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Doc. 50) and separate memorandum and exhibits in support (Doc. 51) filed by Defendants Higbee SALVA, L.P., on behalf of Dillard's Inc. (“Dillard's”). Plaintiff Linda Black-Marshall (“Marshall”) has timely filed a response (Doc. 54), supported by exhibits, in opposition to the motion, and Dillard's has timely filed a reply and supporting exhibits (Doc. 56) to the response. The motion is now under submission (See Doc. 52) and is ripe for disposition.

         With consent of the parties, the Court has designated the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this civil action, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, and S.D. Ala. GenLR 73. (See Docs. 9, 11). Upon consideration, the Court finds that Dillard's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 50) is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         “A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue of fact is ‘material' if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law and it is ‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Ave. CLO Fund, Ltd. v. Bank of Am., N.A., 723 F.3d 1287, 1294 (11th Cir. 2013) (quotations omitted). “Summary judgment is only appropriate if a case is ‘so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.' ” Quigg v. Thomas Cty. Sch. Dist., 814 F.3d 1227, 1235 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)) (citation omitted). However, a “ ‘mere scintilla' of evidence is insufficient; the non-moving party must produce substantial evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam). In other words, “there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party … Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quotations omitted).

         “[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion.” Jackson v. West, 787 F.3d 1345, 1352 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (alteration adopted) (quotations omitted)). See also Allen, 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (“The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” (quotations omitted)). “The Court ‘must avoid weighing conflicting evidence or making credibility determinations.' ” Ave. CLO Fund, 723 F.3d at 1294 (quoting Stewart v. Booker T. Washington Ins., 232 F.3d 844, 848 (11th Cir. 2000)). However, “ ‘an inference based on speculation and conjecture is not reasonable.' ” Id. (quoting Blackston v. Shook & Fletcher Insulation Co., 764 F.2d 1480, 1482 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         “Where, as here, the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party, in order to prevail, must do one of two things: show that the non-moving party has no evidence to support its case, or present ‘affirmative evidence demonstrating that the nonmoving party will be unable to prove its case at trial.' ” Hammer v. Slater, 20 F.3d 1137, 1141 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1437-38 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc)). “Once the movant adequately supports its motion, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that specific facts exist that raise a genuine issue for trial.” Dietz v. Smithkline Beecham Corp., 598 F.3d 812, 815 (11th Cir. 2010). “For issues on which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the non-moving party must either point to evidence in the record or present additional evidence ‘sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency.' ” Hammer, 20 F.3d at 1141 (quoting Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993)).

         “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The nonmoving party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable inferences in the record taken as a whole.” Allen, 121 F.3d at 646 (quotation omitted). “If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment.” Id. (quotation omitted). “Conclusory allegations and speculation are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Valderrama v. Rousseau, 780 F.3d 1108, 1112 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Cordoba v. Dillard's Inc., 419 F.3d 1169, 1181 (11th Cir. 2005) (“Speculation does not create a genuine issue of fact; instead, it creates a false issue, the demolition of which is a primary goal of summary judgment.”)).

         Importantly, “ ‘[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be made based on the materials before it on summary judgment. Rather, the onus is upon the parties to formulate arguments; grounds alleged in the complaint but not relied upon in summary judgment are deemed abandoned.' ” Solutia, Inc. v. McWane, Inc., 672 F.3d 1230, 1239 (11th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc)). Relatedly, while “it may consider other materials in the record[, ]” the “court need consider only the cited materials…” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3) (emphasis added).

         II. Background

         Marshall, a resident of Habersham County, Georgia, was visiting her family on the date of the incident. On March 30, 2018, Marshall took her two granddaughters shopping at Dillard's in Bel Air Mall located in Mobile, Alabama. While in the children's clothing department at the display table, Marshall walked between a ballet bar and the display table, turned clockwise and tripped over a horizontal foot of the ballet bar retail clothing display. This resulted in a fall where she “went spiraling” to the floor. (Doc. 51-1 at 11). Among other injuries, Marshall suffered a broken left hip that was surgically replaced the following day. (Doc. 54-1 at 28).

         Marshall commenced this civil case on June 13, 2018 in the Circuit Court of Mobile County. She alleges negligence and wantonness in her complaint. (See Doc. 1-1) After amending the complaint and properly adding Higbee SALVA, L.P. as a party, Dillard's was properly served on July 5, 2018. Dillard's filed notice of removal on July 18, 2018, pursuant to U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441 and 1446[1], [2].

         III. Analysis

         A. ...


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