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Dalton v. Target Corp.

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

August 6, 2019




         Plaintiff Amanda Adams Dalton brings this premises liability action against Defendant Target Corporation to recover for injuries she suffered when she slipped on a puddle of liquid on the floor in a Target store and fell. (Doc. 1-1 at 4-6).[1] The case was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County and removed to this court by Defendant. (Doc. 1). Pending before the court[2] is Target's motion for summary judgment, (doc. 26), along with its brief and evidence in support of the motion, (docs. 27-28). Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to summary judgment, (doc. 31), and Defendant filed a brief in reply, (doc. 33). The motion is now ripe for decision and due to be granted in full for the reasons that follow.


         A. The Incident

         On February 11, 2016, Plaintiff entered the Target store in Homewood, Alabama, with her mother. (Doc. 28-1 (“Dalton Dep.”) at 15). She came up the escalator at the front of the store and turned to the right to walk toward the restroom which was located at the other end of the front of the store, past the checkout lanes. (Id. at 15-17). When she was in front of checkout lane twelve, [3]Plaintiff stepped in a puddle of white liquid, slipped, and fell to the floor. (Id. at 17-18, 21). The incident report notes the time of the fall as 3:50 p.m. (Doc. 28-2 at 6).

         Plaintiff did not see the puddle before she stepped in it and fell. (Dalton Dep. at 18). After she fell, she noticed a wet spot on her pants and on the toe of her shoe. (Id. at 21). She looked around and noticed an approximately six-inch wide puddle that appeared to be a dairy product, such as milk or cream. (Id. at 21-22). In describing the small puddle, Plaintiff stated:

I could see where I had slid through it. I could see a ring around it, you know when milk or cream, a dairy product starts to dry it starts to kind of get a clear hard ring around it, it had that ring around it and little drops leading off too - later we followed the drops all the way to Starbucks.

(Id. at 22). With regard to the droplets, Plaintiff testified that “[t]hey were dirty” and “had been tracked through.” (Id. at 24).

         A Target employee immediately came to help Plaintiff when she fell. (Id. at 19-20). Additionally, someone came and cleaned up the liquid on the floor. (Id. at 26-27). Once she regained her bearings, Plaintiff stood and went to the restroom and “knew immediately something was not right with [her] left leg and left hip.” (Id. at 24, 35-36). Before leaving the store, she completed an incident report. (Id. at 25).

         B. Target Policies and Procedures

         Target employees are responsible for identifying and cleaning up spills. (Doc. 28-3 (“Wallace Dep.”) at 15-17, 21-22; Doc. 28-2 (“Warren Decl.”) ¶10). As they perform their assigned tasks, employees are required to look out for spills or other substances on the floor that could pose a hazard to customers. (Wallace Dep. at 29-30; Warren Decl. ¶9). Cashiers are trained to observe their areas for spills and immediately clean spills when detected. (Wallace Dep. at 16, 29-30, 40-41). Target Team Leaders and Executive Team Leaders also continually walk the sales floor to ensure that the store is safe and secure. (Id. at 16-17). Target staffs its stores to ensure that there are sufficient employees to ensure guest safety. (Id. at 44-45). Even during busy times, Target stores are staffed so that any spills or hazards should not remain unnoticed for longer than five minutes. (Id. at 22-23, 44-45).

         In a given day, not including the Christmas holidays, there are approximately 60 employees working in the building, in all departments. (Id. at 29). The front portion of the store is managed by the guest service team leader. (Id. at 25). The guest service team leaders are responsible for helping customers, managing employees going on break, helping cashiers with overrides or changes, and the like. (Id. at 25-27, 37). Additionally, they are required to “constantly” “go up and down the lanes and . . . make sure guests get to the place they're supposed to be at by they also, you know, are there is observe what's going on in the front end.” (Id. at 25-26, 37). Additionally, “executive” employees are supposed “to be in every corner of the store every 15 minutes” and “spend 15 minutes in each area” of the store. (Id. at 18).

         When a Target employee sees a spill or other hazard, the employee is trained and required to immediately stop what he or she is doing, remain by the spill to warn customers, and radio another employee for assistance with cleaning up the spill. (Id. at 12-23; Warren Decl. ¶ 11). Another Target employee then brings the appropriate cleaning supplies to the area and the area is cleaned. (Warren Decl. ¶11). Target employees are trained to never walk away from a spill once they detect it. (Wallace Dep. at 12-23).


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper “if the pleading 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 bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying the portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. Once the movant has met its initial burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleading and by his own affidavits, or by ...

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